Keb’ Mo’ tries out a new album on Carmel’s Sunset Center.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Keb’ Mo’ has never been a man who wants to become a victim of comfort. As proof, the three-time Grammy-winning bluesman left Epic Records to release his new album Live and Mo’ on his own independent label.
Sensing that the music industry had gone bottoms-up like a bottle of Old Crow, Mo’ says he wanted to “understand the record-release process better and have more options.”
The new album contains both live versions of Mo’ classics like “Victims of Comfort” and “Perpetual Blues Machine” and studio versions of new songs, all of which he’ll play Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Sunset Center with his four-piece band.
“Music has to compete with other media. That’s just the way it is,” Mo’ says. “Music is just a smaller part of the media pie nowadays, so you just have to accept that.”
Keb’ Mo’s stop in Carmel is part of a 31-date coast-to-coast American tour. His new album, which was released Oct. 20, features six live performances harvested from pinnacle moments on the road and four new studio recordings, including the anthemic, Obama-inspired “A Brand New America,” an inspirational-band version of “Victims of Comfort,” the deep funky groove of “Government Cheese” and the back-porch blues of “Hole in the Bucket.”
Born in South Central L.A. in 1951, Mo’ started out playing the steel drums and stand-up bass. He played in blues and back-up bands throughout the ’70s and ’80s and learned at the knees of such greats as Albert Collins and Joe Turner.
Mo’ released his first solo album, Rainmaker, in 1980. After finding himself unable to book concerts, he retreated from music, got married and took a job delivering airline tickets door to door. But at the age of 35, he decided a day job was out of the question and pushed all of his chips on to the table. Eight years later, at the age of 43, he released his self-titled album on Epic.
Today, Mo’s music is considered a vital, contemporary link to the seminal Delta blues tradition. His distinctive sound embraces multiple eras and genres, including pop, rock, folk and jazz. In total, it owes as much to the singer-songwriter movement, encompassing his longtime friends and collaborators Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, as to the spirit of blues’ godfather Robert Johnson.
Coming of age in the late-’60s, he also brings a political consciousness to his music. In 2004, he participated in the politically-motivated Vote for Change tour alongside Raitt and Browne, with whom he originally recorded the title track from the album Just Like You. The track “A Brand New America” was written just before President Obama’s inauguration last January and reflects the hope that infected much of the country. Its fiddle and acoustic guitar accents give it a folk aspect that echoes another era of political songwriting.
While it’s tempting to make a connection between his personal politics and his departure from a major label, Mo’ insists that going indie is simply a response to an ever-fragmenting industry. But like the America he wrote about last January, it’s all brand new for Keb’ Mo’.