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REVIEW: “All Dressed Up in Blue” – Keb’ Mo’ at The Dakota

Blues musician Keb’ Mo’. Photo by Jeremy Cowart.

Keb’ Mo’ (full name: Kevin Roosevelt Moore) effortlessly crosses genres (blues, country, folk, Americana/roots) and has gained many honors along the way.  Adding to his five Grammy awards (and a total of 13 nominations), the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi recently gave him the Crossroads of American Music Award.

Keb’ Mo’ has said that if he had to be placed in only one category of music, it would probably be the blues, but it is a hopeful and country-music-influenced blues, along the lines of Reverend Gary Davis.  Keb’ Mo’ comes out of Compton, though for a long time he has lived in Nashville.  His is not the angry music of the rap and Hip Hop artists who are also “out of Compton”, though he certainly does not shy away from social justice in his music: his song, “Oklahoma” was about the 1921 Tulsa racist massacre, and “Change,” which he played last night, is a plea for reforms “for the good of everyone.”

As it happens, Keb’ Mo’ did go back to Compton, and even purchased his childhood home – a tale recounted in “Good to Be (Home Again)”, also part of the set last night.

A promotional photo of blues musician Keb’ Mo’. Photo by Jeremy Cowart.

At the beginning of his career, Keb’ Mo’ was a session musician and a songwriter (he earned his first gold record for a song which appeared on Jefferson Starship’s “Red Octopus” album).   And the evening was full of songs he had written, or co-written with people like John Lewis Parker or Papa John Creach, but in a wide range of tones and styles.  With “I Remember You,” he commented:  “We’re going to turn this place into a sleezy bar.”

“All Dressed Up” and “Soon as I Get Paid” have a very traditional blues feel; “The Itch” mixes blues with soul and funk; while “The Whole Enchilada” brings in pop and country; and “Life is Beautiful” is a sweet folk/roots song.  There was excellent support by the three-piece band:  Dane Farnsworth on keyboards both complemented and played creatively against the guitar of Keb’ Mo’ and Zachariah Witcher’s electric bass, while Casey Wasner held it all together with a steady beat on percussion.

In his songs, in interviews, and on stage, Keb’ Mo’ comes across as humble, despite his immense talent and achievements, and with a genuinely good heart and spirit.  One of his current projects is a “Blues Safari” in South Africa in May 2024 (he led a similar trip in 2018).

A week of hearing music with Keb’ Mo’ and by him in a small-group setting would seem ideal; but for those who cannot afford such venures, an evening hearing him play at The Dakota is a more-than-adequate alternative.

Blues musician Keb’ Mo’ posing with his electric guitar. Photo by Jeremy Cowart.
Brian Bix