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Shocked To Still Be Around

20 March 2015 | 4:47 pm | Michael Smith

"I’m actually shocked that I’m here, shocked every day!”

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"I knew it was powerful,” Keb’ Mo’, or Kevin Moore to his mum, admits of his initiation into the blues some 20 years ago, “but I didn’t know that anybody would take me seriously,” he chuckles.

“I knew there were people that had come before me that had done a great job on it, and so me getting to participate in it in a kind of, I don’t know if it’s a big way, but in some sort of a related circumstance or related genre mixed up with the blues – a little blues here, a little blues there – I didn’t think that I’d still be around by now, so I’m actually shocked that I’m here, shocked every day!”

As Kevin Moore, he was already something of a veteran by the time he stepped out as Keb’ Mo’ in 1994 with an eponymous debut album that blended his previous experience in pop, R&B, rock, jazz and soul with an equally heady mix of various kinds of blues – Delta, Texas, Chicago and so on. He’d started out a decade before in his hometown LA but couldn’t seem to get a break. Then he got a gig in a blues band working with a couple of old-timers, saxophonist Monk Higgins and guitarist Charles Dennis, who opened the young player up to the whole history of the blues.

He’d intended his latest album, 2014’s BLUESAmericana, to be a sort of back to basics affair, reflecting that period of discovery. Of course, it ended up becoming a band album anyway, even if it was him playing most of the instruments, recording it in his new home studio.

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"I’m actually shocked that I’m here, shocked every day!”

“I think the kiss of death for me is to go into the studio saying, ‘I’m gonna make this kind of album.’ I make whatever comes out,” he laughs again. “So I probably won’t be doing that again. Movin’ to Nashville brought a different tone to the record too, and I remember sitting here in my studio and the drummer came in and I started out singing and playing with the drummer. That’s where I started and I continued to write songs and I wrote songs about things that are really real to me, like I always do.

“This time I wrote about the problems of being married, which I don’t always like but at the same time the blues is about… well, good storytellers talk about things that maybe you don’t want to talk about but you talk about anyway. Doing that, you find that there’s some other people that might wanna talk about some of the things you wanna talk about but not always all of them.”

One track, The Old Me Better, sees Moore take things right back to where the blues began, the song a swaggering New Orleans street parade co-written with long-time writing partner John Lewis Parker.

“I recorded that with a band out of California called the California Feetwarmers – and there’s nobody in the band from New Orleans!”