Keb' Mo' (Kevin Moore), the award-winning, Delta-blues-influenced singer/songwriter, played to a crowded house at the Guthrie Theater on March 18. He's promoting his album The Reflection, which comes after a few years' break from recording (2006's Suitcase was his last album).
The Reflection is a self-produced album and features duets with India.Arie and Vince Gill, among other noted musicians. A press release describes Keb' Mo' as a “living link to the seminal Delta blues that traveled up the Mississippi and across America. He’s won three Grammy Awards and also won ten W.C. Handy Blues Awards, including Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year and Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year."
This particular two-hour solo concert had no special highlights, but was a consistent show of guitar playing talent and the incredible voice crooning clever and relevant lyrics for which he is well known. There was no fanfare on stage, just the man and his guitar—well, three guitars–one of which was a silver beauty. Although the sound was perfect, the lighting, overall, felt awkward and inconsistent—even distracting to his performance.
A dual spotlight treatment meant he couldn't see the audience at all, so he ventured out to the edges for some conversation, a little dancing, and to take requests–at one time even walking up into the audience to listen to quieter voices (no one had a problem hearing the deep, loud voices shout out). He worked the audience like an orchestra, getting the crowd to hum (in tune!), sing (kinda in tune) and, maybe best of all, imagine. Imagine how we all have moments in life where his songs can soothe things over, provide perspectives we hadn't thought of, and offer reasons to be happy with life...just as it is.
If you're not familiar with his lyrics, they reflect (among other things) his views of beautiful women (his wife being the primary inspiration there), relationships with women, and the intensity of best-friendships. Some offer a contemporary translation of the blues and how to live with'em and through'em. One of the first songs Keb' Mo' sang on Monday night was "Keep It Simple," where phones and TV stations are fodder for angst and frustration like liquor and lying women would have been for one of his legendary predecessors (although in other songs Keb' Mo' takes on those topics, too).
His history includes playing with blues legends including Albert Collins and Big Joe Turner (Keb' Mo' began his career by playing with Jefferson Airplane in the '70s). You hear tributes to his influences in the sharp twangs and sexy slides of his chords. On the Guthrie's stage, the audience heard (among other songs) "Hole in My Bucket," "Still Got a Crush on You," (written by Kevin So), "Whole Enchilada," "One Friend," "Angelina," and "Perpetual Blues Machine." A three-plus-song encore included "Suitcase" and "She Just Wants to Dance"—clearly crowd favorites.
Keb' Mo' now lives in Nashville, although he explained that he has ties in Minnesota including a mother-in-law (shout out to Delores during the show!) and a sister-in-law's sofa where the modern day blues ballad, "Government Cheese" (Live and Mo', 2009) was penned: "It's a bad situation/ But I love my little friend Louise/ It's a bad situation/ And I love, my little friend Louise/ Yeah, she's a wiz in the kitchen/ and she knows what to do with that Government Cheese."
This particular tour will take Keb' Mo' to Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday and around the east and southeast through Madison Square Garden and Meridian, Mississippi. The Reflection can be heard via streaming on Keb' Mo's website.
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
©2013 Betsy Gabler (text) and Tom Baker (photos)
818 S. 2nd St.