In Mofro's previous three albums (Blackwater, Lochloosa, Country Ghetto) the songs have been a soulful gumbo of blues, funk, rock, and gospel. Slow rollers, mid-tempo groovers, juke house rockers, and soul-baring gospel (some of my favorites). Most songs represent poignant reflections of southern living, whose lyrics often transcend the normal bounds for blues ballads. Some of the best songs of the decade in my opinion. Their simplicity (in instrumentation, arrangement, and emotive delivery) is the key to their resonance with listeners.
Although Orange Blossoms includes some beautifully polished soul recordings, tight musicianship, and JJ's gutsy vocals, Mofro seems to have strayed from a winning formula a bit. Daryl Hance's slide guitar, always subtle, is mostly lost behind the horns and strings. The mid-tempo groovers dominate the record, making many of the songs sound basically the same (Devil You Know, WYLF, On Fire, Higher You Climb). The tempo goes from slow to slower on She Don't Know, The Truth, and Dew Drops. The more upbeat Ybor City is a straight-ahead blues shuffle that lacks the edge that usually makes Mofro stand out. Funky, yes. Dynamic, not so much. The lyrics just don't seem to resonate quite as well as in previous records, and the subject matter is much more typical of the genre (girls, relationships, etc.).
If you're a Mofro fan you'll still really like Orange Blossoms. It's just a little more over-produced than you're used to. If you're just getting to know these guys, check out Country Ghetto or Lochloosa first. I hope JJ and Mofro get a little more back to basics on their next release.