October 11, 1997

The Blues Fall Like Rain

Filed under: Archive,Music

Keb’ Mo’ (Blues soloist)
Tivoli Hotel, Adelaide.
29 Sept. 1997.

The Blues Fall Like Rain

Keb’ Mo’ – that’s Delta blues for Kevin Moore- is beaming at the stand up crowd at Adelaide’s Tivoli Hotel. “Yo’ got yourselves a championship football team.” His drawling pentameter turns the phrase into twenty five syllables. And the Crows fans love every one of them. It has been a top weekend. Yesterday’s win at the MCG and now some Sunday night good-time blues from a very amiable stylist.

It was when he landed a role as a bluesman in an LA theatre production seven years ago that Keb’ Mo’ got back into roots music. He used to play backup to Papa John Creach in the seventies and then in r’n’b house bands in the eighties. But nothing quite predicted that he’d be picking up the coveted W.C.Handy blues award for his 1995 debut album, or a Grammy for best contemporary blues recording for his current CD Just Like You. (Sony)

In his coffee coloured fedora and matching vest, Keb Mo looks like a St Louis gambler and has all the charm of a carpet bagger. His fingers glide over his Gibson guitar as he opens his set with Victim of Comfort. The cascading bottleneck runs, rich grainy voice and easy manner has the audience bopping straight off. Reminiscent of Taj Mahal and that sweet old legend, Mississippi John Hurt, Keb’ Mo’ is strong on self irony and low on angst.

The nimble syncopations in Perpetual Blues Machine are garnished with harmonica. ForThat’s Not Love and his new age blues, You Can Love Yourself , he takes up his National Resophonic dobro, a gleaming, steel-bodied wonder which summons up the very mortgaged soul of the Mississippi Delta. The sound pours off the guitar like metal ribbons, all cross-hatchings and unexpectedly tender harmonics. This is the blues today. Not artificially exhumed, not a feat of scholarly ventriloquism, but an idiom inhabited and renewed. It Sets Me Free , he sings -and you know what he means.

Just Like Me, a beautifully judged call for racial harmony, is a high point. Soulful pop, sung with conviction, it showcases Keb’ Mo’ as a versatile contemporary performer. Purists have been known to protest such excursions but it is futile pedantry to do so. Besides, when he swings into Dangerous Mood, a sardonic portrait of the singer as Badass, as Staggerlee, Keb’ Mo’ is back in that honourable lineage of blues shouters from Joe Turner to Jimmy Witherspoon.

Closing with Hand it Over , a jump-driving, dobro ragtime which has the crowd in raptures, Keb’ Mo’ mixes gospel jubilation with a wry smile. The Australian tour is over but check out the CDs and watch out for him next time round. In the current scene you won’t find mo’ better blues than this.

Weekend FIN Review, October 11, 1997.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment