Personnel: JJ Grey (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonica); Andrew Trube (electric guitar, lap steel guitar); Art Edmaiston (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Dennis Marion (trumpet); Anthony Farrell (piano, organ); Anthony Cole (drums).
Audio Mixer: Carl Nappa.
Recording information: The Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA (01/22/2011).
Director: Spookie Daly.
Editors: Sabrina Hilario; David Bragg; Spookie Daly.
Photographer: Tibor Nemeth.
Arranger: JJ Grey.
If you've ever seen JJ Grey & Mofro, you have an idea of what to expect from this concert-length DVD and accompanying 78-minute CD. That said, since this gig, recorded in January at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse, was pre-planned with the end result being Brighter Days, maybe you don't. For starters, there's the band. For this engagement, Mofro was a sextet that included saxophonist Art Edmaiston, trumpeter Dennis Marion, organist and pianist Anthony Farrell, drummer Anthony Cole, electric and lap steel guitarist Andrew Trube, and bassist Todd Smallie. The concert footage is broken up with documentary footage of Grey -- who hails from the swamps of Florida -- telling stories (he's brilliant at it) and offering his observations on music, life, and various and sundry thoughts. The DVD gig contains three more songs than the CD. Musically, Mofro is excellent here. The way Grey and band combine their loosely played (not sloppy) roots meld of Southern R&B, country, blues, gospel, and muddy pop has a way of gaining in intensity, whether they are playing vintage tunes or newer ones; it's instictive, not something you can rehearse. Grey's voice is much grittier live than on records, it is a catalyst for the band to build upon and they do so whenever presented with the opportunity. The Brighter Days film was by Spookie Daly. The multi-camera concert footage is spontaneous, capturing the band in full-on, sweat-streaked glory, feeding off the crowd and passing good vibes back to them. The audio CD doesn't come off quite as well. Perhaps it's the lack of between-song banter, or that seeing a band play numerous choruses of a particular tune translates better in visual rather than the aural mediums. That said, certain tracks on the CD do stick out: "War," with its burning guitar work and squealing horns, the shambolic dance strut of "Orange Blossoms," and the long, gospelized blues righteousness of "The Sun Is Shining Down." While this one is for the fans, hearing the three aformentioned tracks would make a believer out of virtually anyone. Sold at an attractive price point, this set is pretty much irresisitible for fans. ~ Thom Jurek