“My name is Junior, from Memphis Tennessee”, sings blues supremo Keb Mo on ‘I Remember You’.
As the opening and choicest cut from his latest album of masterly blues narratives: Oklahoma, take it as read that there is nothing ‘apprentice’ about this slab of uber blues from this seasoned craftsman.
Born and raised in Compton, LA as Kevin Moore, the now re-located Franklyn Tennessee resident Keb Mo has journeyed far and wide since his 1994 self-titled debut album.
Already with four Grammy wins from his eleven previous studio albums, Oklahoma pushes his thoroughbred credentials further with its wise balance of blues offerings.
That fine balance is beautifully reflected in his one-man shows where Keb mixes in Mississippi Delta blues with nuances of Americana and country folk blues tales. All with a daring dash of cool humour.
Tonight’s selections of emotional, humorous and wry observations on the human condition, and its foibles were joyously welcomed by his pew-full congregation inside the Union Chapel, Islington.
Easing into his esteemed repertoire, sitting on a stool with acoustic in his big hands, “This is the first song” announced Keb as he picked out ‘Rita’ from 2006s Suitcase release. Hereon, Mo took his fans on a travelogue of his back catalogue.
Then the jaunty love song ‘Tell Everybody I Know’ bounced around the monumental acoustics in this not so quiet hall of prayer.
The gentle lilt of ‘Life Is Beautiful’ also revealed a sensitive artist in tune with his mojo. It followed memorable new tune ‘I Remember You’ where he quipped: “Never wear clothes that are cooler than you” about his hat on the cover of his new release and not too dissimilar to that on his head this evening.
Title song – no, not ‘that’ original musical banger – the big and hearty ‘Oklahoma’, further displayed the classy tunes making up his new album with its underlying Latin feel.
Taken from his third waxing 1996s Just Like You, ‘More Than One Way Home’ segued into a soulful (‘Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ as Mo encouraged the gathered throng to obligingly whistle along.
However, getting down into the dust bowl dirt of the blues with his electric Dobro, ‘The Worst Is Yet To Come’ and ‘Henry’ shook the heavenly rafters and floorboards, as the more knowledgeable attendees loudly whooped their appreciation.
The superb acoustics in this church of music resounded skilfully with raw bottleneck slide and harmonica. The wry musical twist of ‘Old Me Better’ is a standout example of his top draw blues narrative and musicianship.
Mo languidly loosened up the austere depictions from the ‘good book’ decorating this venue with his cool and humble presence.
In fact, squinting hard and allowing the imagination fly a little, it’s possible to see the prophets, preserved in stained glass, shuffling and nodding their approval to this sage of the blues delivering his mellifluous sermons of joyous music tonight.
Event Date: 02-July-2019
Photo: Jeremy Cowart Words: Paul Davies