He has been called the north Florida sage and soul-bent swamp rocker, and he still lives on his family’s north Florida land, a former chicken farm. Now it has a recording studio, a warehouse that doubles as his gym, an open-air barn and some 50 pecan trees from which he removes moss, suspended 50 feet above land. He is JJ Grey, and while he now headlines major festivals instead of local juke joints, he has not lost a blue-collar spirit and love for the land, the swamps of his youth and the Louisiana swamp-blues tradition.
Grey was drawn early-on, to country-rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding and other Memphis soul icons and he listened to Run-DMC as well. Merging those traditions, Grey began touring as Mofro in the late 1990s. His debut album in 2001, Blackwater, emphasized his love of roots-rock and he was soon playing beyond America and the UK at larger and larger clubs and the biggest festivals.
On his latest album, Ol’ Glory, Grey spent more time than ever on new material. He says that he “draws blood” making all his albums and he takes no shortcuts. While he is known as a hip-shooting, off-the-cuff performer whose first vocal take is often his favorite, he took more time constructing the lyrics and vocal lines for this album. “I would visit it often in my mind, visit it more often on the guitar in my house,” he said. “I like an album to have balance, like a novel or like a film. A triumph, a dark brooding moment or a moment or peace-that’s the only ring I consistently try to achieve with a record.”
Grey has several treasured possessions, including Otis Redding’s In Person at the Whisky a Go Go, and Jerry Reed’s greatest hits. He has said that he grew up “wanting to be Jerry Reed, but with less or a country and more of a soul thing.” As one commentator said of Ol Glory, “Grey does his idols proud. It’s a country record where the stories are all part of one great mystery; it’s a blues record with one foot in the church; it’s a Memphis soul record that takes place in the country.”
It’s JJ Grey in all his glory. Don’t miss it.