Rockin' soul: Pure and simple southern sounds


at Starr Hill Music Hall
Sunday, April 10

Imagine Blackwater, Florida. Probably on the panhandle of the state, or maybe in the less explored regions of the northern neck of the woods. Regardless of its exact location, it's country. Florida country.

Before Sunday night, I didn't know Blackwater existed. But the band headlining Starr Hill Sunday night, Mofro, wore their Blackwater southern heritage like a badge of honor. Mofro began as a duo in rural Florida and has since expanded into a full quartet, playing the festival circuit as well as prestigious events like Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

The group has developed their own version of a down home southern sound that sits somewhere amid old-time R&B, gospel, funk, and southern rock.

The melody and bass were driven by a Hammond B3 organ. I have a low tolerance for organ-driven music. The high pitches tend to rub me raw after a while. With Mofro, things were different. At no point in the evening did I feel the chafe.

The drummer had an uncanny resemblance to Galactic drumming phenom Stanton Moore. They both play a style common along the Gulf Coast– a traditional style Moore is introducing to a new generation of players. Mofro's drummer lacked Moore's fancy fills but still held down a steady pulse, only showing off when given the chance to solo midway through the set.

Mofro's lead man controlled the evening's vibe. Over the course of the night he played Wurlitzer keys, guitar, harmonica, and sang the vocals. When he wasn't rendering the message with soulful crooning or touching up the melodies with his fingers on the keys, he was taking his time with his drink, and delivering diatribes on life to a very attentive audience. The rambles were just as entertaining as the music. He kind of reminded me of a dirty, drunken gospel preacher in an old Baptist church, the way he carried on with the music just grooving in the background.

To the singer's left sat another guitarist who picked up a lap steel from time to time. He never looked up at the audience, keeping his eyes tightly focused on his strings and effects. While what he played was simple and subtle, it seemed to be all the right things at all the right times.

That philosophy proved to be the backbone of the Mofro sound: a place for everything and everything in its place.

The band finished early and returned to the stage for an expected encore of three songs. By the end of the evening, their music had drenched me in unadulterated southern soul. Mofro was a true melting pot of country culture and a perfect way to jumpstart my glutes into another work week.