Bluesman Keb’ Mo’ to play sold-out show in Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture it: Keb’ Mo’ playing steel drums and upright bass in a calypso band.
Not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of the dapper bluesman. But it was an early gig.
“It was the Young Calatino Steel Band,” Mo’ said. “I started when I was about 11 years old [and played] until I was 18.”
Growing up in Compton, Calif., he also picked up a guitar about the same time.
“I started when I was 12 and the guitar was literally put into my hands. Uncle Herman, my mother’s brother, said, ‘Here,’ I’ll show you how to play guitar.’ They wanted to give me something to do because they thought I was going to turn out to be a little hoodlum,” Mo’ said and laughed.
The singer-songwriter became a three-time Grammy Award winner, taking home the honor for Best Contemporary Blues Album for “Just Like You” in 1997, “Slow Down” in 1999 and “Keep It Simple” in 2005.
“I heard the blues all my life,” Mo’ said during a call from his Nashville home. “It took a long time to get drawn to it — early to mid-’80s, from maybe ’83 until now.”
Kevin Moore became Keb’ Mo’ with his self-titled 1994 debut.
“You can’t escape the blues,” he said. “You can talk about anything in the blues. No one’s left out. All subject matter is fair game … It’s the truth; it’s real; it’s life.”
On his 2011 disc, “The Reflection,” Mo’ teamed up with India.Arie, Vince Gill and saxophonist Dave Koz.
The guitarist is working on a new CD. “I’ve got several tunes, and right now I’m really working on creating the sonic landscape of the record,” he said.
Mo’ has written and co-written some great songs, including “Life Is Beautiful,” “The Whole Enchilada” and “I See Love,” which is featured as the theme song of the TV show “Mike & Molly.”
Asked about the art of songwriting, the thoughtful artist replied, “The first thing is the melody, and then the song and the chord structure should go together well; if that’s good, the tempo can vary greatly. It should be able to be played like a ballad or up-tempo and it should still work. That’s all I know so far.
“And when you sing it, try to sing it good,” Mo’ added with a laugh.
His talents are in demand.
“I’m collaborating with and possibly producing the Carolina Chocolate Drops record; I’m working on a record with Sweet Pea Atkinson; and I’m going to LA to record with Joe Walsh on his new project,” he said.
Mo’ also will play a sold-out show at 8 p.m. March 22 at The Ark in Ann Arbor.
“I hope [my music] becomes a refuge. I have records that are a refuge for me; I can go and get lost in a record. It’s a kind of destination. And then when I’m there, I go into my special place that makes me feel good, and I hope that I can supply that for others.”