BluesWax Spotlight On
Keb’ Mo’ and His Band
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
By Eric Sutter
Singer-songwriter, guitarist, and three-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’ flashed a Mississippi “Big Wide Grin” in the “Muddy Water” at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Here’s the lowdown: even though the performance spotlighted this gifted musician’s guitar playing, much praise should be given to his tight rhythm section’s playing and keyboardist Michael Hick‘s loose, soulful groove. Keb’ Mo’s ease of style guitar playing made for a warm and comfortable downhome experience with stories of love and heartache. Although rooted in the Delta, his music transcends those boundaries to update that sound to modern times with R&B influences. His depth of emotion and living grace typified his persona of the link to the Delta blues.
Beginning solo on “Love Blues” and “The Action,” he showcased acoustic rhythm guitar playing and slide. Love songs to females “Loola Loo” and “Rita” were up against electric numbers with full band on “Let Your Light Shine” and “France.” He performed one of his best known works from 2009′s Live + Mo in “More Than One Way Home,” with a terrific bass solo by Vail Johnson. Drummer Lester Falconer kept a steady beat through “Everything I Need” as the keyboards took it to church with Keb’ Mo’ bringing it home with his mellow resonator slide guitar solo. Slower blues numbers like “Don’t Try To Explain” captured the wounded heart of pain and misery. The show featured guitar changes galore, including banjo. His melodic slide glissaded true in “Perpetual Blues Machine.” He performed acoustic with harmonica on “City Boy,” which showed his neo-traditionalist blues style. “America The Beautiful’ moved the audience to singing.
“Whole Nutha Thing” expanded on the theme of the importance of woman in his blues with a laid-back groove and strong rhythm section. Good use of lighting made for an authentic duplication of the traditional blues “Come On Into My Kitchen” with Keb’ Mo’ solo center stage on sweet slide guitar. Incidentally, Keb’ Mo’ broadened his fan base with the docudrama Can’t You Hear The Wind Howl in which he played Robert Johnson. He brought the house down with the encore of an early funky blues “She Just Wants To Dance.” He performs in Springfield, Massachusetts on October 27.
Eric Sutter is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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