Although it’s been said that a band’s sound reflects the place they call home, it is rarely quite as audible as in the case of the North Florida-based band Mofro, whose funky blend of blues, soul, Southern rock, and yes, even a bit of country, is difficult to articulate. But when you hear it, you are struck with the way Mofro’s sound evokes the sights, smells, topography and climate of their home. Living up to the amusing, yet surprisingly apt, billing of the band as “Cheap-Ass Funk Straight off the Front Porch,” the duo that breathes heart and soul into Mofro is singer/multi-instrumentalist J.J. Grey and guitarist Daryl Hance.
Mofro’s music, unlike many groups that are part of the more mainstream music industry today, is nothing if not sincere. It is music with heart and social-and especially environmental-consciousness and makes one realize what has been missing from much of the music industry today. The lyrics and music are woven so tightly together that one cannot separate the two.
When listening to Lochloosa, the group’s second album, one is liable to be struck with the versatility of the group’s sound, which presents a range of song types and grooves while still somehow managing to form a coherent, no-nonsense sonic fingerprint. Incidentally, this sound is both original but familiar, bringing to mind any number of other groups in the swamp-rock genre, but sounding like none of them. The almost tactile quality of their music is slightly disorienting when it first hits the ear, and the album takes repeated listenings to let the band’s sound and style seep into one’s skin, but well worth the effort.
Hance’s slide guitar permeates the album, creating atmosphere that supports and enhances the mood of each track without ever quite stepping into the spotlight. It is the closest one can come to having an example of the “strong, silent type” translated into music, and the songs on the album would be diminished without them. The haunting slide playing on “Ten Thousand Islands” stands out as particularly beautiful, and is complemented by Grey on harmonica.
Grey’s vocals, like many other aspects of this group’s sound, take some getting used to; they are simultaneously too gritty and too polished to make sense outside of the context of the band’s sound. The warm, sweet-yet-melancholy vocals on the title track are those of a lover, and he absolutely wails by the end, belting out the words from the depths of his being.
The more introspective tracks on the album are balanced by ones that are just good, plain fun. The infectious groove the band lays down on “Six Ways From Sunday” and the gruff, humorous funk of “Dirtfloorcracker” make it next to impossible not to get up and simply move to the music.
Their music is real, their music is organic, their music is simple and honest, and yes, even a bit sentimental. Simply put, Mofro’s music is sonic proof that there really is no place like home.
Mofro will be appearing this Saturday, May 28 at 5 p.m. on the Sunshine Stage at Three Sisters Park as part of the Summer Camp 2005 Music Festival in Chillicothe, Ill.