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Keb Mo a music review


“Just Like You” ....Keb’ Mo’

A Review by Carol Nelson

With “Just Like You”, his second album on the OKeh label, Keb’ Mo’ proves himself to be a gifted lyricist. The singing, in his strong, warm, resonant baritone voice and guitar playing are exemplary too,but the words are what really stand out on this recording of straight blues and bluesy pop tunes. Keb’ Mo’, born Kevin Moore, performs 12 of his original compositions plus one Robert Johnson number, “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”. Originally from Los Angeles, Moore now lives in New Orleans, closer to his familial roots (his parents are from Texas and Louisiana) and closer to those Southern blues roots, as well. Sounding much like Robert Johnson on the acoustic songs like “Momma, Where’s My Daddy”, some of the other tunes have more of a BB King feel to them. “Dangerous Mood”, especially, has that “BB” feel. Both Keb’ and his guitar sing on this one.

Look out Baby
I’m in a dangerous mood
I had to steal a little time baby
so I could spend it all on you”

I’m gonna light a candle
put the champagne on ice
and if one time ain’t enough
well we’ll just have to do it twice

The better blues numbers on this album are the five songs on which Keb’ Mo’ is accompanied only by his own guitar and harmonica playing (plus two back-up singers on the gospel-inspired “Hand It Over”). On most of the other songs, Keb’ is joined by several musicians playing bass, drums, keyboards, percussion, even horns. Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne lend their voices on the title cut “Just Like You”. This song has an ambiguity about it that makes it work. In Moore’s own words, “One person might listen to this and it’s about racial antagonism and reconciliation”, topics Keb’ is undoubtedly familiar with as a black man who grew up in sometimes racially volatile South Central Los Angeles. “Somebody else will say, oh, that’s about divisions between men and women”, something else he probably knows something about, as a man, of course, and as someone who was raised by his mother after his parents divorced.

but I heal
just like you
and I cry
just like you
cause I feel
just like you
and under my skin
I’m just like you

Blues purists may not be happy with this album as it does cross over into contemporary and pop, but this translates into radio play and thus can serve as an introduction to the blues for those as yet unfamiliar. There is plenty of traditional-sounding blues on this album, but the truth is, Keb’ Mo’s not trying to recreate a bygone era…. he’s creating new music in the blues tradition.

Copyright © 1998 by Carol Nelson, All rights reserved

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