Last week, we gave you something of a preview of singer/songwriter Keb’ Mo’s new album BLUESAmericana (Kind of Blue Music) with a Blues Lyrics of the Week post on the project’s opening track, “The Worst is Yet to Come”. In addition to its interesting lyrics, the album also includes a wonderful array of sounds – many courtesy of Mo’ himself – once again proving the multi-instrumentalist and three-time Grammy winner one of most versatile bluesmen today. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Mo’ and Casey Wasner, BLUESAmericana features nine original songs plus one cover, a soulful, satisfying take on Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright” on which Mo’ himself handles electric and slide guitar, bass, organ, and harmonica, joined only by Steve Jordan on drums.
It all starts on those intoxicating grooves of “The Worst to Yet to Come”, with Mo’ on guitar, banjo, tambourine, and wailing away on harmonica in addition to providing his usual strong vocals. Colin Linden guests on mandolin, with Michael Hanna also turning in a fine performance on organ, accompanied by hand claps and some inviting background vocals, all of which serves to help lure the listener in so much that you just may start to believe the song’s chorus that things can only go downhill from here.
Fortunately for us all, Mo’ isn’t the kind of guy to let us down, proceeding to offer up a delightful selection of tunes that range from the soft, introspective ballads of “For Better or Worse” and the closing “So Long Goodbye” – the latter made all the sweeter by Mo’s wife Robbie on backing vocals while Keb’ handles acoustic guitar, bass, organ and piano – to the breezy “Do It Right” co-written with Jim Weatherly (“Midnight Train to Georgia”) and featuring Mo’ on acoustic guitar, banjo, slide guitar, organ, and harmonica, to the bouncy, New Orleans sound of “Old Me Better” with the California Feetwarmers adding some parade drums, washboard, banjo, sousaphone and other horns to Mo’s guitar and banjo, for what Mo’ calls “a humorous way of looking at the fact that maybe it wasn’t better than now, but it sure seems like it at times” with lyrics such as “I don’t drink too much, I don’t swear as much, you even made me go to church/ I ain’t done much talkin’ since the day we got together/ I’m a different man because of you, and I like the old me better” and “Well, I got to say you’re the only one that I’ve ever loved/ you and I are a good fit, we’re like a hand and glove/ but now I’m sitting here looking back, wearing this stupid sweater/ truth be told, I got to say, I like the old me better”.
That’s just one of the comments you’ll read from Mo’ in the album’s liner notes (which also include lyrics for each song), with Mo’ for example describing the gospelish, creeping “Somebody Hurt You” as “where the blues meets the church…a testimonial to claiming your bright future and letting go of a maybe dark past” with Mo’ on guitar (sounding a bit like B.B. King at times), bass, and keyboards while Michael Hicks joins on organ. Add to that some nice horns, hand claps, and deep backing vocals that include Mo’s longtime friend and civil rights movement Freedom Rider Rip Patton, and you have all the trappings of yet another terrific song.
Some Robert Johnson-like guitar introduces the swaying “I’m Gonna Be Your Man”, on which Mo’s passionate vocals combine with some soft R&B strains and horns. That’s followed by a grooving, even more R&B sounding “Move” that has Tom Hambridge (who co-wrote the song with Mo’) keeping a funky beat on drums, with Mo’ on guitar, electric piano, and banjo, Hicks again on organ, and Paul Franklin on pedal steel. Rounding out the album is the plucky country blues of a “More for Your Money” that features producer Wasner on drums and Tim Shinness on both cello and mandolin.
With its smooth vocals, laidback down-home sounds, and diverse instrumentation, BLUESAmericana is rich in a multitude of ways, offering a simplicity and, at the same time, impressiveness that few can achieve. It may not be straight blues according to Mo’, but we’re pretty sure you can count on this one being among the nominees for both next year’s Grammy and Blues Music awards.