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Keb' Mo': Blues Meets Jazz in BluesAmericana

Belinda Ware By

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My first intention was to make a stripped-down acoustic album—just me and my guitar playing some songs. But I couldn’t do it! I love ensembles so much. —Keb' Mo'
Jazz and Blues go hand in hand like mother and daughter, father and son. Blues is often associated with a style of music imbued and cultivated within musicians born and raised in the downhome South hanging out in nightclubs on Memphis' Beale Street, New Orleans and Tupelo waiting for a spot to perform.

Kevin Moore hails originally from the city of Compton, a city that has served as home to Venus and Serena Williams, Kendrick Lamar, and George Bush. Moore did not choose the Blues. The Blues chose him.

A consummate musician, Moore was gigging playing his guitar in the heart of L.A. with some of the city's groove masters when he found himself gradually transforming into the musical persona of Keb' Mo.' His self-discovery in the vortex of the Blues mirrored his musical rebirth and his creative destiny to take the baton of the Blues and run with it to an evolved state of modern consciousness and expression.

A California native, Keb' Mo' discovered his gifts in playing Southern Blues guitar, singing and songwriting over time and at the right time in his musical journey. Keb' Mo' became acquainted with the Blues when it hit him like a strike of lightning. It was a moment of awakening that helped him get to know the Blues like a natural born man riding the wave of colorful improvisation in jam sessions similar to the authentic character of Blues pioneer, Robert Johnson. This was the beginning of his journey to carry the Blues with him both in his heart and in his suitcase on his travels.

As a creative artist, Keb' Mo' is a gifted interpreter of pure music. He is a man of multi-talents who has achieved success through his career keeping himself at the forefront of musical trends. He has established himself as an independent thinker, recording artist and songwriter committed to keeping the authentic music and legacy of Blues alive. He is a real human being who cries, laughs and finds those moments to write eloquently what he feels while integrating in variable degrees shades and textures of Jazz, Folk, Roots and Americana Music.

As a Blues guitarist, his melodies and instrumental chord progressions take listeners into the world of Blues alley. His world. Keb' Mo' is an architect of Blues fusion adding jazz harmonies and personnel in just the right places as seen in his large anthology of songs and his passion for discovering a new musical sound and frequency in the key of "keeping it real."

His live concert performances are a representation of his range of electric artistry taking the stage with a few musicians and filling the hall with the symphony of the Blues. Keb' Mo' is multilingual in his ability to translate a life experience lyrically through the multifaceted world of the Blues with a variety of his original songs representing Delta Blues, Country Blues and Blues Americana. His journey to his current position as a natural born Blues man began the day he performed on a New Year's Eve gig with his original jazz drummer, Quentin Dennard.

In a recent interview, Dennard shared, "Kevin is truly a gifted musician born with an ear to create thoughtful music that lasts. The first time I heard him play, I noticed he played with such feeling and emotion through his guitar making it talk to you. Ya' know. He and I were performing at a New Year's Eve gig and we were hanging out chopping it up afterwards. He was in deep thought thinking to himself. He said to me that he wanted to start playing the Blues. I told him he needed a Blues name to start with like Keb' Mo.'"

As a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Keb 'Mo's artistry flows from the depths of his personal experience as an observer of life, reflecting on people in the society we live in, their choices, challenges and triumphs arriving at the understanding of a seasoned Blues man with a master's degree in the art of living life. His ability to translate these life lessons and observations is what makes Keb' a treasure in today's world of music as he embodies the Blues of the past,present, and future stemming from the things that don't change regardless of technological developments.

In today's musical landscape, Keb' Mo' continues to be consistent with his persona as an ambassador of modern Blues and Americana bringing attention through his music to the beauty and purity of the simple things in life. Helping a friend in need, the magnificence of nature, and standing on the crossroads of a choice to go left or right. These are subjects he gives attention to in his songwriting. His original music releases organically stand up on their own as the artistic voice of the people. Through his music, he connects with people from all walks of life from the social elite to the homeless man asking for spare change.

Keb' Mo' connects the poor man to the rich man in his lyrics that tear down the walls of the economic differences between people in the moments his music plays. He gives listeners a chance to hear about themselves as he mirrors common experiences and breathes life into street knowledge through the melody on the lyric.

When he takes the stage for a live concert show, Keb' Mo' emotes the personal fortitude and inner joy of a free and independent spirit in his comfort zone ready to connect with his audience as he sings songs to uplift listeners through the musical aesthetics of self-expression. His passion lies in traveling on the road across the USA with his guitar and suitcase greeting fans while stepping center stage to recreate the timeless power of raw Blues as he rides on the wave of the groove that carries him through each show transforming the moment into a familiar vibration of Roots music.

Keb' Mo' has a natural ability to bring the Blues front and center on the stage of life through his expressive guitar playing and honest expressive vocals that resonate the natural vibe of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Robert Johnson, and the original architects of the Blues.

"BluesAmericana"(Kind of Blue Music, 2014) marks his current hit musical release with a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album and accolades as a Billboard #1 Blues album and #2 Folk album. The project continues to prove itself to be an ongoing successful release added to a roster of his previous hit projects to date. "Blues Americana" is thoughtful, intellectual and a cathartic collection of wisdom in a coffee can as Keb' Mo' addresses modern day challenges in socio-economics as relates to the everyman and his intrinsically thoughtful approach on how to get over.

Listening to the musical arrangements on this project, it is a work created with pure Blues as the main ingredient mixed with Folk, Country, Jazz and Soul in just the right portions making each track distinctive in its musical flavor. Blues Americana is composed of a series of songs that open a real conversation with Keb' Mo' who sings about life and the street wisdom that transcends time and evolution. Some things remain the same in life and Keb'Mo' is the storyteller of the hour who brings it all in focus in Blues Americana.

"Move" is an up-tempo track with the musical influences of B.B. King and T-Bone Walker in Keb' Mo's approach to simple straight talk within the streetwise lyrics. Keb' Mo' shows out his inner mother wit as he drops the word on shaking off one's troubles and letting it all go. The song talks about not letting problems slow you down when they present themselves.

Keb' Mo' gives the world a taste of plain common sense fused in the lyrical flow of his writing just like a wise Blues man, the kind of Blues man a tourist would run into walking along the French Quarter in New Orleans or Memphis' Beale Street. "It's a crazy world, so jump on in when the time is right... you gotta move."

"The Worst is Yet to Come" illustrates the power of simple acoustic Blues in this up tempo foot tapper with featured instrumental arrangements including acoustic guitar picking, harmonica, drums, and bass . It tells the story of a man who is confronted with money problems and trouble with a personal relationship. The song is not a sad song in tone and nature. It is a song sung by a man who has been hurt and healed and now sees the signs again from a possible heartbreak. He is familiar with the terrain of falling in love and the uncertain land mines that can emerge. He sings of tough times and his uncanny foresight of a brighter day ahead in spite of what it looks like. The lyrics of the song alone stand as a poetic conversation with a close friend, big brother, parent or even a wise Blues man performing on the streets giving the advice that no matter what it looks like, everything is going to be alright. "Didn't get no breakfast, didn't get no lunch...the sun keeps on shining, just like it always does...I guess I get through it pretty good."

"Somebody Hurt You" is a mid-tempo track delivering soulful harmonies with a groove that emanates the essence of the Blues in a down home feeling in the pocket of the music. His lead vocals are conversationally soulful combined with backup vocals by a group of singers whose sound combined with Keb's is reminiscent of the classic artistry of Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. Keb's tone is direct and on the front line coming from the psyche of a man who has recovered from a heartbreak. He sings about his victory that he has overcome the hurt of a break up driving home the message that if somebody hurts you to look on the bright side. "Ain't nobody ever gonna hurt you no more."

Keb' Mo' crosses over back in time into the zone of New Orleans' French Quarter infusing the essence of Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives in "Old Me Better." It is a delightful track that stands as an open letter written by a man who has a moment of self-discovery as he writes to the love of his life. The song tells the story of a man who discovers the happiness of falling in love and comes to a realization that he was happier the way he was before he fell in love. He sings of his appreciation of his former carefree lifestyle eating,sleeping and living life in the moment. Musically speaking, the instrumental arrangements on this particular song are nostalgic with a modern flair creating a tune that is a classic Jazz and Blues track full of the emotion and energy that is signature to the essence of pure New Orleans Jazz.

The song features Keb' Mo' and a group of players from the California Feetwarmers combining strings, piano, horns and the full sound of a French Quarter band. It is a celebration song that revisits and modernizes Dixieland jazz with the authentic feel and sound of the era of the birth of Jazz created by Satchmo himself.

"Do It Right" tells the story of a man who played it safe in his search for the love of his life. The song moves forward to share the man's discovery of his soul mate and his decision to take it nice and slow in building the relationship over time. "I used to think love was a dangerous thing....she'd be out to hurt me, use me and desert me...you made me want to love and respect you, protect you and this time I'm going to do it right." This song is one that touches on the heart and celebrates the victory of falling in love in a way that transcends language, culture and time. Keb' Mo' is subtle in his expressive artistry painting his perspective lyrically on how to build a successful relationship,"Taking it slow and steady."

A cup and a half of Louisiana Blues mixed with the musical influence of Robert Johnson permeates through the concert hall of his live concerts. With three Grammy Awards and multiple nominations including a nomination for BluesAmericana, it is evident that Keb' Mo' is a forward thinker staying in tune with current trends and finding new ways to keep the Blues modern without compromising its essential nature . He continues to discover tunes that keep it front and center in a formidable way. Keb'Mo' is by far the people's musician, a man motivated to engage fans with his innate gift in musical storytelling and the artistry of pure Blues built on the foundation of grassroots rhythm and sound.

As a lyricist, his songs are his truths built upon his personal database of life experiences that he holds close to heart. His inner wisdom overflows musically speaking as he pens each story through the years as a consummate observer. His anthology and song catalog is vast in a myriad of hit tracks that have been recorded by B.B. King, Buddy Guy and other major stars across the industry of music.

As a songwriter, Keb' Mo' is the man in the mirror asking the world to change its ways by taking breaks from technology and connecting in real time to find solutions to life's problems through one on one conversation, music and art with the ultimate message of peace and love to the world. "If you ever need someone to talk to, and if you ever need a helping hand, I'll be your ship on the ocean, I'll be your water in the desert sand..."

"BluesAmericana" is an anthology of pure classics that emote Keb' Mo's seasoned artistry as today's modern lead man in the genre of contemporary and traditional Blues. What's next? When it comes to the musical evolution of the Blues and the vast array of songs yet to be penned by Keb' Mo' and what he has to offer, the best is truly yet to come.

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