Country Ghetto (Alligator)

It's been years since southern blues-rock has received a boot to the ass this strong. With his third disc, North Florida backwoodsman JJ Grey raises the bar for every would-be swamp-boogie bad boy. Forget stale revisitations of Delta chestnuts and Allmans-flavored blues; Grey is a first-rate song-crafter, drawing from his Dixie roots with ease and authority.

What's more, Grey's rough-hewn voice has broken free -- for the most part -- from influences like Dr. John and Otis Redding; it's now the ideal delivery system for his frequently pissed-off lyrics about hard times redneck-style. Grey lets listeners know -- and on several occasions -- that he's taken enough hits to have learned how to land a few himself. And while he's mostly down, he's never truly out. But when all else fails, attitude will pull him through. It all comes together on the title track, an exquisite slice of "cracker smack," where Grey issues this warning: "Never mind what you seen/And just forget what you heard/Another 'ignorant redneck' is just some Hollywood words."

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