It's easy to form false impressions of places by basing them on the superficial information available today. From recollections of people's holidays in online photo albums to what we see of them in television and movies, we're inundated with images designed to entice us to spend our tourist dollars. Air conditioned, air brushed, and sanitized they have as much to do with a place's reality as a centerfold has to do with real people. In spite of being aware of this, I've never been able to picture Florida as anything more than a collection of motels and beaches, created by Disney World. If ever a state was made out of plastic it was Florida.
Which is of course completely unfair to everybody and everywhere in the state that have nothing to do with the designated tourist zones, but until recently I had no way of knowing that anything else existed. Although in my defense I would ask how many people in Florida think that because I live in Canada I speak French and have to wear snow-shoes year round. Anyway, about a month ago I was introduced to a slice of a much more realistic Florida by a group of musicians from Lochloosa in a band called JJ Grey & Mofro.
I had been sent copies of two of their earlier recordings, Country Ghetto and Lochloosa, on Alligator Records by their Canadian distributor. I was not only impressed with them musically, but by the way they were able bring their part of the world to life. Instead of the mawkish sentimentality or boasting that's earmarked a great deal of the regional music that I've previously heard, these folk created songs firmly rooted in reality that contained elements of such universality that even a city boy from the frozen north could understand what they were about.
One of the things that had impressed me most about those two discs was how they had expanded their musical horizons from the first to the second. Not only did the music become more sophisticated, they also showed a willingness to experiment stylistically. So when I received an advance copy of their forthcoming release, Orange Blossoms due out on August 28, '08, I was interested to see what they had in store this time.
Well these guys don't fool around, and right from the opening track on the disc, the title song "Orange Blossoms", they show that they have no interest in standing still. For if on the last disc they dabbled in funk and R&B, they've taken the plunge here and committed themselves fully to creating a groove that will move you physically, emotionally, and intellectually. That might sound like hyperbole, but these are songs that you can listen to just as easily as you can dance to as the lyrics matter just as much as the tune, and the CD has been produced with that in mind. Not only are you able to hear the lyrics on all the songs, but they're also comprehensible, not buried under a whole bunch of effects so that you can't understand a word the vocalist is saying.