JJ Grey & Mofro's Olustee: A Soulful Journey - 30A


JJ Grey & Mofro’s Olustee: A Soulful Journey

By: Gen Handley | Posted May 18, 2024

It took nearly 10 years, but the wait was worth it. It’s been eight years since 2005’s soulful Ol’ Glory, and legendary Florida funk rockers JJ Grey and Mofro have finally released the anticipated follow-up, Olustee, with 11 carefully crafted tracks that take a firm grasp of your attention the entire time. So, why the long wait?

“I’ve always heard that life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans, and that was definitely the case with making this album,” Grey said. “Actually it was probably more like Olustee happened while I was making other plans. I had no idea how much time had elapsed between albums. I just worked on it when the inspiration hit.”

From the gentle guitar strumming and Grey’s vocals on the first song, “The Sea,” it’s hard to not to get drawn into Olustee right off the bat, a record that maintains a steady thrum of positive energy throughout with “Top of the World” bringing the funk and a good energy in the second track. Much of the record’s lyrics are inspired by mythical Southern stories of his ancestral Florida home and filled with people from JJ’s life, particularly the bluesy rocker and title track “Olustee,” a welcome change of pace showing how dynamic this band can be. The entire record pulses with energy and color, giving the listener quieter and more subtle moments like the melancholy “Seminole Wind,” the romantic “Starry Night,” and the beautiful closer, “Deep Than Belief.” But throughout, the album is punctuated with big, bright moments like the very danceable “Wonderland” and the horn-driven “Free High.” All these loud and low moments are joined by one common idea – enjoy life.

Credit – Norm Eder

Olustee is the first record that Grey has self-produced, and that is clear in the quality and in its intimate sound (it would sound amazing on vinyl.)

The intricacies and nuances of the various instruments, as well as Grey’s incredible voice, result in a record that reveals new surprises upon every listen.

“I produced the record strictly through happenstance,” he explains. “I made my normal demos at home for all the songs like I always do, but then I decided to demo them again with the band in the studio. The first couple of tracks came out so good that I just kept rolling with it. Then Covid hit and no one was traveling, so I just kept working on the album, and before I knew it, it was almost finished.”

Over their discography of 10 albums, JJ Grey and Mofro have continued to raise the bar, surprising those who have waited so long for a new record. What makes them unique is their strong respect and admiration for the natural world, which is evident in the lyrics of the song “Olustee”:

Hear it roar, hear it roar

All the way around Olustee like a flaming hurricane 

See the deer flashing by

See the crows flying high trying to get away

Hear that pop go tree to tree

See my life now flashing by me, I got to make it to the lake

“The ocean was a big influence on the album, and it is a big influence on me in general,” Grey reveals about his lyrics. “Three of the songs on the album (Top of the World, The Sea, On a Breeze) were all inspired at the ocean, but they are completely different sounding. Ultimately this land here at home in Florida moves me, whether I realize it or not, so it will always be a major contributor to my music.”

Believe it or not, JJ Grey and Mofro’s roots can be traced to the mid-1990s when they signed with a record label in London, England. A lot has happened since, but that rich history is evident in this hopeful record that keeps you happily wondering until the very end.

For more info, check out JJ Grey & Mofro or follow them on Facebook.


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Gen Handley is a music writer living in Vancouver, BC where he can be found running its wet streets or trying its many restaurants with his wife and son.