Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
As a songwriter, JJ Grey tends to see his pet subjects—desire, injustice, compliant women, scores worth settling—via metaphors involving the wildlife of his native Florida. “King Hummingbird” takes the sprightly bird as a symbol for a love that just won’t let go; in the opening track—one of the disc’s few instances of the wry, patient funk that made the band captivating to begin with—a femme fatale is of course a “rattlesnake”; and the title track takes its name from an indomitable breed of grasshopper native to Grey’s Jacksonville home base. (The singer never misses an opportunity to stress his resilience against nameless haters.) The zoology element begins to feel a bit like a gimmick, but when Grey departs from insect and serpent imagery, things brighten up a bit. “The Sweetest Thing,” with a Joe Cocker-worthy horn line, pits JJ Grey’s gravely wail against an excellent performance by Toots (as in the Maytals) Hibbert—it’s a collaboration that brings to mind the early-’90s Van Morrison/John Lee Hooker joint efforts. “Beautiful World” is classic, smoldering soul and a fine love song; “The Hottest Spot in Hell” is a single relentless groove that consigns various malefactors—wife-beaters, slave-drivers, despoilers of the Everglades—to you-know-where. Meanwhile “Lullaby,” the final track, shoots for Rolling Stones/“Moonlight Mile” territory and gets a well-deserved boost from Derek Trucks’ slide guitar. Taken as a whole, this is a fine roots-rock record—Grey’s distinctive, brittle guitar lines are still admirable, especially when he runs his six-string through his talk-box gadgetry. But those who found the two most recent Mofro albums (2007’s Country Ghetto and 2008’s Orange Blossoms) something close to a revelation have come to expect more than the facile approach exemplified in the album’s principal dud, “Gotta Know,” which muses on the mysteries of flowers, stars, and the deity over a dreary beat. And as for the disc’s one fuck anthem? It’s called “Slow, Hot, and Sweaty,” and it’s slow indeed but not the aphrodisiac for which you might hope. “Can you feel me deep inside?” Grey asks at one point; and well, I don’t know, JJ, but if you have to ask, something’s probably wrong.