The Blues: Up Close and Personal

Keb’ Mo’

Many of you, who have been following Weekly Music Commentary over the past month, know that I attended consecutive concerts a few weeks ago. Well, last week I attended my third concert within the span of a month. The first show was Earth, Wind and Fire. It was a concert I really wanted to attend and I considered an important event in my lifetime. The second performance was given by Patti Austin whom I admired for many years, and I was very happy to finally experience her intimate and live presentation. Out of the three concerts, last week would be one I wanted to attend, but without the excitement level of the first two. Nevertheless, I left the concert hall musically fulfilled and absolutely happy I was in attendance. The concert was given by the great blues artist Keb’ Mo’.

Thanks to the University of Miami and the 2014 Festival Miami series, I was able to see Keb’ Mo’ wrap up the festival with a marvelous showcase of skilled guitar work and blues music. As I sat through the concert I thought about the great idea of choosing Keb’ Mo’ to perform in such an event. I was impressed that Frost School of Music Dean Shelton Berg stated in his introduction that he attempted to get Keb’ Mo’ to perform for seven years previously and finally succeeded this year.

Of course, Kevin Roosevelt Moore (professionally known by the abbreviated moniker Keb’ Mo’) is not the only blues musician I know. My Chicago background exposed me to blues music for most of my life; therefore I have heard some of the greats of the genre. However, there is something special about Keb’ Mo’ and I might have discovered what separates him from others after one live performance.

Looking back on his life, perhaps some professional development helped Keb’ Mo’ grow into the great artist he is today.  In 1984 in his native Los Angeles, Keb’ Mo’ worked hard to get record and publishing deals and establish himself as a studio musician under his given name Kevin Moore, and then saw all of that dissipate. “I was convinced my career was over, and that if I was lucky I’d be able to play blues gigs for $40 or $50 a night… if I was lucky,” he recounts. Kevin got a gig in a blues combo with sax player Monk Higgins and guitarist Charles “Charlie Tuna” Dennis, who today plays rhythm six-string behind B.B. King. “Until then I thought there was just two kinds of blues — fast and slow,” says Keb. “Charlie taught me that there are all kinds of blues: Delta blues, Texas blues, Chicago blues, soul-blues… I started opening my mind and learning how deep the blues was.”

When I listen to Keb’ Mo’ music, I do hear the various styles of the blues, but I also hear so much more. He was also exposed to R & B and jazz music, and those styles definitely are prominently displayed throughout Keb’ Mo’ albums. “I never set out to be a ‘blues guy’,” he explains, “but the blues is very powerful and fuels what I do. The blues puts the ‘realness’ in it for me.”

With that statement I understood why this particular live performance stood out as one of the best I ever observed. There certainly is “realness” in Keb’ Mo’ music. His lyrics and music are born from his personal experience, like most musicians. The test comes when the musician must perform in front of a live audience. The recording process helps any musician deliver a pristine, flawless performance where they can practice on conveying a message best. In time and after several takes, the music will be just right. The live performance must be all of that with one chance to get it right. Many times we experience the very good and possibly great performance. The difference comes when the artist makes you “feel” their music. This is the best way I can describe Keb’ Mo’s performance at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall. Keb’ Mo’s charismatic stage comportment, along with his interaction with his band helped him deliver a magnificent performance. I could really “feel” the music and songs.

Even though I was familiar with his music before attending, Keb’ Mo’s concert made me search for more of his music. For most of you reading out there you don’t have to go too far to purchase Keb’ Mo’ music. He has an album released April 2014 entitled BLUESAmericana. This is Keb’ Mo’s twelfth full-length album released over a twenty year period that marks much personal and musical growth. I can guarantee if you purchase BLUESAmericana you will hear a display of some of the best blues music of our time. However, if you happen to catch Keb’ Mo’ in concert you will experience great music and more…..up close and personal.  One of the things I enjoy most about publishing Weekly Music Commentary is choosing the music video for the post. This week I picked my favorite Keb’ Mo song, “More Than One Way Home”. Enjoy!

7 thoughts on “The Blues: Up Close and Personal

  1. I've never heard of Keb Mo although I do enjoy jazz. Thank you for introducing me to his music. I loved the video More Than One Way Home and will be checking his music out on ITunes.

  2. A friend turned me onto Keb Mo years ago…I am such a big fan but have never heard him live.I'd sure like to though:) And then Earth Wind and Fire AND Patty Austin?? Lucky you!!!!

  3. Earth, Wind and Fire and Patti Austin, wow! And then this fine music by Keb' Mo' – which I really love! Love the blues anyway but this man is outstanding. It's great that he sings about his own experience. I'd love to see him in person.

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