On JJ Grey & Mofro’s latest release, Ol’ Glory, bassist Todd Smallie expertly navigates a low-end journey that contains equal parts soul groove session, southern funk jam, and gospel revival. (Click to view Todd’s Bass Musician Magazine cover interview from January 2014)
From the overdriven funk of the title track to the throwback swing of “Light A Candle For Me”, Todd creates a perfect counterpoint to JJ Grey’s vocals. This is a sizeable task, since Grey is noted for his ability to range between quiet intimacy and full shout-chorus bravado. One example of Todd’s organic interaction with JJ’s dynamics can be heard on the brilliant track, “Home In The Sky”:
Todd comments, “We recorded Ol’ Glory at Retrophonics Studios in St. Augustine, Florida with engineers Dan Prothero, Jim Devito, and Chris Delucchi. JJ has recorded all of his studio releases at that studio and it’s always been a major part of the Mofro sound.
I played a ‘62 P-Bass that Jim Devito owns. (I always end up playing one his basses on the recordings) I tried to give him my P-Bass and briefcase of money for his ‘62 – no dice! I played through an Ampeg B-15 amp and have always preferred that amp in the studio.
The recording process was quite a bit different and enjoyable for me. We usually go in and record all basic tracks live, which we did for the bass, guitar, and drums. Most of the keys, vocals and guitar solos were recorded later and a lot of scratch tracks were used during the initial sessions. On two songs (Ol’ Glory & Turn Loose) we played along to some scratch tracks that JJ had recorded at home to get the vocal arrangement and form solid. Then he used our tracks for the basis of the song.
All of the horns were recorded at a later date as well. I enjoyed the process of hearing it come together and building the songs over a few different sessions. It’s a great luxury to have time to focus on the construction and the grooves of the songs; JJ and Dan Prothero did an amazing job of capturing the spirit of the music.
It’s always inspiring to play the shows and perform JJ’s music. His diversity in writing and natural sense of rhythm is one of the many reasons I love playing with Mofro. Great songs, high energy, and some of the greatest musicians I’ve ever performed with. It’s always an honor to be a part of the music.“