What I’ve Been Listing to: Keb’Mo’/That Hot Pink Blues Album

Live album showcases Mo’s signature style mixing blues with pop and soul

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These days, the blues seems to be on my mind a lot. I’m happy to report though that my mental state hasn’t changed – I’m still crazy about great music, and music is my doctor! Plus, when it comes to Keb’ Mo’, the blues rarely makes you feel down.

Born Kevin Roosevelt Moore on October 3, 1951 in South Los Angeles, Calif., Keb’ Mo’ initially broke through in 1994 with his eponymous second studio album. While the blues forms the backbone of most of his music, Mo’ has frequently mixed in other genres, including pop, soul and jazz throughout his 35-year-plus recording career.

Keb Mo

Country and delta blues hard core fans may dismiss Mo’s breed of the blues, but I like the fact that he’s been broadening the genre. In this regard, he reminds me a bit of Taj Mahal, who has mixed acoustic blues with folk and roots music from around the world, such as reggae, zydeco, West African and even Hawaiian music. To be clear, I also love pure country and delta blues but can always listen to artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sleepy John Estes and Robert Johnson.

I’m still relatively new to Keb’ Mo’ and only started paying closer attention to him when he and Taj Mahal released their collaboration album TajMo in May this year. I previously shared my thoughts on this outstanding record here. I’ve also been motivated to explore Mo’ more deeply, since I’m going to see him and Mahal next Thursday as part of their ongoing tour.

After listening into various of Mo’s 16 albums to date, I decided to highlight his latest solo record, which captures live performances from his 2015 tour. According to the bio on his web site, That Hot Pink Blues Album “began as almost an afterthought and an assortment of concert gems “for the fans,” because his front of house engineer decided to hit “record” at the beginning of each show.” The album ended up with 16 tracks captured from shows in nine different cities.

Keb Mo and Band

The live record presents tunes from throughout Mo’s career and, as such, is a great introduction to his music. Following are some of the songs I’d like to highlight.

The opener Tell Everybody I Know is written by Mo’ and first appeared on his above mentioned 1994 eponymous album. His guitar-playing has a bit of a J.J. Cale feel to it. I also love the keyboard part!

Next up is Somebody Hurt You. Co-written by Mo’ and John Lewis Parker, the track was included on BLUESAmericana, Mo’s 14th album released in 2014. The tune is a relaxed mid-tempo blues that showcases Mo’s electric guitar skills. The great background vocals add a nice dose of soul.

The Worst Is Yet to Come, another tune from BLUESAmericana, is one of the highlights on the album. Mo’ co-wrote this song with Heather Donovan and Pete Sallis. The amazing groove of this mid-tempo electric blues just makes you want you start moving. It’s another nice illustration of Mo’s electric guitar skills.

Government Cheese stands out to me for its seductive funky groove. Written by Mo’, the song first appeared on 2009’s Live of Mo’, his first live album. The track also includes an unexpected Moog-sounding keyboard part.

The last tune I’d like to highlight is More Than One Way Home. Written by Mo’ and John Lewis Parker, the song illustrates Mo’s pop side. He recorded it first for Just Like You, his third studio album from 1996, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. He won two more, in 1998 and 2005, and had various additional Grammy nominations. The catchy pop jazz track features a nice electric slide guitar and a cool bass solo.

Before wrapping up this post, I’d also like to acknowledge Mo’s excellent back-up band: Michael B. Hicks (keyboards) Stan Sargeant (bass) and Casey Wasner (drums). Hicks is known in the funk and soul scene in Nashville, where Mo’ resides, and beyond the city. In addition to touring with Mo’, Hicks also records his own music. In 2013, he released an album called This Is Life, together with an 18-piece funk group, Mike Hicks and the Funk Puncs. Sargeant is a prominent session and touring bassist, who has worked with an impressive array of music artists like Dolly Parton, Vanessa Williams, Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Butler, David Benoit and Al Jarreau. He also released a solo record in 2014, a pop jazz album. Like Mo’, Wasner is a multi-instrumentalist. He also produced Mo’s BLUESAmericana album and writes his own music.

Sources: Wikipedia, Keb’ Mo’ website, Mike Hicks website, Stan Sargeant web site, Casey Wasner website, YouTube

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