KEB’ MO’: The legend comes to town

by Lindsay Hilton

Three-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’ has a new album coming soon—his first since The Reflection was released in 2011—and it promises to be of the caliber to which Keb’ Mo’ fans are accustomed. The Compton, California native, whose real name is Kevin Moore, has channeled a wide range of musical greats in his earlier music, including Bill Withers, Clarence Carter, and Otis Redding. The name Keb’ Mo’ is “street talk” abbreviation of his given name and was conceived by his original drummer, Quentin Dennard.
A master at blending old school R&B with jazz, contemporary blues, and soul vibes, Keb’ Mo’ has collaborated over the years with the likes of Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, and Jackson Browne, to name a few. The Reflection featured Vince Gill, India.Arie, and Dave Koz.
Though Keb’ Mo’ may be a household name in the blues category, The Reflection took a different path and it will be interesting to see what influences the new album carries. The older album reflected the life changes that took place for Keb’ Mo’, including a new family and a move from Los Angeles to Nashville, as well as a new home studio. He also founded a new label during that period, Yolabelle International (“your label”), which produced the new album.
On the more jazzy, contemporary direction that The Reflection took, Keb’ Mo’ says it wasn’t intentional. “Those were just the songs I wrote. I made the record and then I realized it wasn’t a blues record,” he says. “But sometimes you have to get out of your lane for a moment.”
The new album focuses on his life over the last few years and marks a return to the blues and folk undertones of his older music. “There is some fun stuff in there– stuff about relationships and love. Things that are hard to explain,” he says. “I want Keb’ Mo’ wants fans to listen for themselves, take a little bite out of it. They can get their own opinions and form their own interpretation.”
Aside from his work on the new album, Keb’ Mo’ is keeping busy. He recently worked with California Feetwarmers to produce an album on Sweet Pea Atkinson, of Was (Not Was), released on his new label, Kind of Blue Music. He has some other projects planned for the near future but on details he is staying mum.
On Feb. 22 at Mount Baker Theatre, Keb’ Mo’ will be playing with a neighbor of his who is new to touring with him, Tom Shinness, who plays guitar cello and mandolin. His band will be wooing the audience with some of the new material, as well as a sprinkling of music from his older albums.
Fans can expect to see “that red guitar,” Keb’ Mo’s 20-year-old custom Stratocaster that he counts on to deliver that funky beat to his music. “It is not very comfortable for me to play on stage. It does too many things and one flick of the wrong switch, you’re in trouble!” he says. But he acknowledges that it is still the most important instrument for him. “This is the one that is most Keb’ Mo’.”