Keb’ Mo’ Talks About His Music/CD

As Keb’ Mo’ has moved into his third decade as a recording and touring artist, he has realized that old adage applies to what he wants to do in his live shows.

That idea of stripping things back is easy enough when Keb’ Mo’ (real name Kevin Moore) is playing a solo acoustic gig, such as his Nov. 8 appearance at Alys Stephens Center in  Birmingham.

But these days he’s also trying to achieve something similar to his solo acoustic shows when he’s leading his four-piece band by getting his words and vocals to be the focus and have the other instruments complement and enhance those central elements of his songs.

“I’m trying to merge the same feeling with the band show and the solo show,” Keb’ said in a recent phone interview. “What I’ve been working on is toning down the band show to have the feeling of the solo shows, you know what I mean, just kind of pull it back as opposed to coming out ‘We’re gonna rock the house.’ We can do a little bit of rocking around the end of the show, but we try to create that same experience with a textured layer of tones that are just as inviting and lovely.”

Keb’ had his opportunity to refine his band shows during a September run of full band that followed a late-summer tour with fellow roots musician Taj Mahal. Now he’s back on a series of solo gigs. The shows with Mahal came in support of “TajMo,” the collaborative album they released last year and an album Keb’ Mo’ considers his latest album.

Keb’ Mo’ first encountered Taj Mahal in high school when in 1969 Mahal, then a rising star on the scene, played a concert at his high school. Mahal’s brand of gritty acoustic- centered blues, mixed in with country, folk, jazz, as well as African, Caribbean and other world music influences was an eye opener for the young Kevin Moore.

“You had Motown, and it was the ‘60s and it was hippies,” Keb’ Mo’ said. “But this was just, it just woke me up. ‘Wait a minute. Get up, get up. Get out of your bed.’”

Eventually Keb’ Mo’s own music would come to incorporate a good number of the influences that have flavored Mahal’s work in his 50-plus-year career. But it took Keb’ Mo’ a good while to find his musical voice.

A native of Los Angeles, he spent time in a calypso group (playing steel drums and upright bass, no less) as well as an assortment of cover bands before he got his first taste of national exposure in 1973. That’s when Keb’ Mo’ was hired by Papa John Creach, the late violinist who recorded with Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship, for what became a three-year stint of touring and recording. But his first chance to release a solo album fizzled when his 1980 release, “Rainmaker,” stiffed.

After that setback, Keb’ Mo’ joined a group founded by producer Monk Higgins called the Whodunit Band that introduced Keb’ to blues music. This came in handy when in 1990 he was invited to portray a musician playing Delta blues music in a play produced by the Los Angeles Theater Center called “Rabbit Foot.”

It was not long after that production that Keb’ got to meet Mahal and begin what has turned into a lasting friendship and now a collaborative musical relationship.

In 1993, Mahal and his producer, John Porter, were in the studio working on Mahal’s “Dancing The Blues” album. A friend of both artists, Chic Street Man, wanted Keb’ Mo’ and Mahal to meet and took Keb’ to the studio to hang out. That meet and greet happened, but perhaps more importantly, Mo’ was able to give Mahal and Porter his self-made demo tape.

Porter liked what he heard and shopped the tape to record companies. Epic Records, which was re-launching its Okeh imprint, signed Keb’ Mo.’ The next year his self-titled debut album earned considerable acclaim for Keb’ Mo’s contemporary take on acoustic-based blues. He followed that debut effort in 1996 with “Just Like You,” and saw the album win him the first of his four Grammy awards.

Keb’ has gone on to release another 10 studio and live albums, solidifying his reputation as a talented blues/roots artist and building a sizeable fan base. The “TajMo” album, a diverse mix of rootsy tunes and more modern upbeat numbers figures to introduce him to even more fans. Keb’ Mo’ has been pleased that the project has been well received and received major honors, including the Grammy.

“It’s really nice,” Keb’ said. “We worked really hard on it (“TajMo”). We just wanted it to be good for the people. We put in a lot of hours. The fact that people are getting it is really rewarding. We’re really grateful.”

Buy Keb’Mo’ latest CD and Many More! All I Want For Christmas is Music.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.