Keb’ Mo’ is a blues, Americana and roots music stylist. He released his first album under his birth name Kevin Moore back in 1980 but it wasn’t until he re-surfaced fourteen years later, using his childhood nickname Keb’Mo’, that he received “overnight” success. The self-titled “Keb’ Mo’” album, often referred to as his debut, released on June 7th, 1994, won the W.C. Handy Award (now called the Blues Music Awards) as the Best Country/Acoustic Blues Album of the Year. That album contained two hit singles “Tell Everybody I Know” and “She Just Wants To Dance”. His next two albums 1996’s “Just Like You” and 1998’s “Slow Down” each won a Grammy Award as the Contemporary Blues Album of the Year. His last album 2017’s “TajMo”, a collaboration with Taj Mahal, yielded three BMA’s and another Grammy. Overall Keb’ has fourteen BMA’s and four Grammy Awards.
This new album is produced by Colin Linden and co-produced by Keb’. It was recorded and mixed at the Stu Stu Studios in Franklin, Tennessee. Included are ten new songs written with nine different co-writers. The band includes numerous personnel changes.
The title track co-written with Oklahoma native Dara Tucker was partially inspired by the aftermath of a tornado but is also about our own man-made disasters and the resilience of the rugged Native Americans. “Cowboys and Choctaws…Chickasaws and outlaws…I can feel the sunshine, sweeping through the plains”. While Keb’ plays acoustic guitar, the production is completed by Robert Randolph, lap steel; Andy Leftwich, violin; Samuel Alexander, keys; Eric Ramey, bass; Chester Thompson, drums; and background vocalists: Tucker, Carter Moore and Keb’s wife Robbie Brooks Moore. Keb’ says “Robert came in and added some musical flavor. The result was beautiful…and ultimately what I chose to be the album’s title.”
“Put a Woman in Charge” authored with John Lewis Parker and Beth Nielsen Chapman contains the lyric “And here we are, standing on the brink of disaster. Enough is enough is enough is enough, I know the answer. Put a woman in charge”. Rosanne Cash shares the vocal with Keb’. Marcus Finnie is on drums with the horn section of Jovan Quallo, saxophone; Scotty Huff, trumpet; and Joshua Scalf, trombone. Keb’ states the song is “about putting some nurturing feminine energy into how our country operates.”
Taj Mahal, bass and vocal; shares a duet with Keb’, mandolin, harmonica and vocal; on “Don’t Throw It Away”, written with producer Linden and Charles Esten. This environmental anthem suggests “You gotta use it again, baby don’t throw it away, ‘cause it’s a beautiful world, baby don’t throw it away”.
“This is My Home” from the songwriting team of Keb’ and Parker is about the divisive issue of immigration. This heartfelt tribute helps to humanize the struggle. Latin pop star Jaci Velasquez provides the stirring background vocal.
Two more songs are also from Keb’ and Parker. “The Way I”, a song about depression, features Keb’ singing; while accompanying himself on a national steel guitar, with just Finnie added on drums. While the intimate love song “Beautiful Music” sung beautifully as a duet with his wife Robbie, closes out the album.
The album is dedicated to Keb’s late mother Lauvella Cole who passed last year at the age of ninety-one. Keb’ concludes “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.” No worries here, you will love “Oklahoma”.