“I’m more interested in pleasing myself, and making records that make me feel proud and make me feel like I’ve done my best. And if other people like it, that’s gravy.” states Keb’ Mo’, assessing his new release Oklahoma.
Indeed, in his quarter-century as a recording artist, the charismatic singer/guitarist/ songwriter and five-time GRAMMY Award winner has consistently made music that reflects his own passions and interests. In the process, he’s earned a reputation for his ability to draw upon his bottomless roots-music expertise to make deeply expressive, highly personal music.
That’s the case throughout Oklahoma, whose expansive creative vistas reflect the eponymous state’s wide-open spaces. With noted musical veteran Colin Linden (The Band, Bruce Cockburn) heading up production duties, the album’s 10 tracks encompass Keb’ Mo’s diverse talents, with the artist delivering some of the most adventurous and personal work of his career.
“When you are in a certain part of your life, the concept of an album is woven into the process,” he says. “All of these songs stemmed from important issues and topics worldwide that really resonated with me during the time we were recording the project.”
The inspiration for the title track “Oklahoma” started with a visit to the state in 2013 for a benefit show with Kenny Wayne Shepard. Keb’ witnessed first-hand the aftermath of a destructive tornado. “I thought about what it must be like to live in Oklahoma and all the great people that have come from Oklahoma,” he recalls. With just a melody in his head for a song about Oklahoma and little personal connection to the state, the title track was almost never conceived. That is until the hands of fate led him to the meeting of, and songwriting session with Dara Tucker, an Oklahoma native. Together, they set about to portray the complicated depth of American history played out in her home state. Native American connection and tragedy, natural and man made disasters, incredible musicians and the Tulsa Sound, and western ruggedness and fortitude are all themes. Notable is the mention of Greenwood/Archer and Pine, known as “Black Wall Street” which was infamously destroyed in 1921 in one of the most devastating massacres in the history of US race relations.