Keb' Mo's soul sound comes straight from life


He’s known for singing the blues, but Keb’ Mo’ says he’s more than just a blues man.

Keb’ Mo’ — a performance name derived from his given name, Kevin Moore — puts out rhythm-driven, feel-good, soul music. Most people call it the blues.

“That’s what they say,” the three-time Grammy winner said in a recent phone interview from his home in Tennessee prior to his Saturday, May 3 scheduled performance at Beasley Coliseum on the Washington State University campus. “But I don’t know, I listen to what they say.”

After a lifetime in the music business, Moore knows who he is a singer-songwriter who plays music.

“(The) music business wants to categorize you, but a musician just wants to play music,” Moore said.

It just happens that most of the music Keb’ Mo’ plays has a blues feel to it. His latest album, “BLUESAmericana,” has a simple, acoustic sound that leans toward upbeat blues but dabbles in reflective contemporary and classic Americana.

“It’s different, but it’s kind of a hybrid of what I’ve done before,” he said.

The songs are always positive, but they range from upbeat to easy going.

“I’m not known for rocking the house down,” Moore said.

“The most fun for me is ‘Move, ’ ” he added, referring to one of the songs on his most recent album. “It’s just a good-old song to close the bar with.”

The steady beats and catchy riffs drive the bluesy lyrics about moving on to the next thing. Others of his favorites explore love and relationships, such as “For Better or Worse,” “Do It Right” and “So Long, Goodbye.” The last of those songs — and the last on the album — sounds like a farewell and indeed that’s what it is. It’s a piece he wrote on a plane, reflecting on a recent rough patch in his marriage to his wife, Robbie Brooks Moore.

“We’re not saying so long, goodbye to each other — we’re saying so long to the last year,” Moore said.

The challenges, he said, brought the two closer than ever and makes Robbie’s bright harmonies with him on that final song all the more beautiful. It’s not her first appearance on his albums and, based on Moore’s praise of her, it won’t be the last.

One thing that makes “BLUESAmericana” unique is the extensive role Moore took in creating the final sound. Because he plays a variety of instruments, he worked out the various parts as he heard them in his head. That bit of direction, along with some free reign, enabled musicians to come in and create the sound he was going for.

“It’s a collaboration, for sure,” Moore said. “But I took way more initiative on this one than before.”

A songwriter first, Moore finds inspiration for his lyrics in everyday life, whether it’s the things lying around his house, ideas that come up in conversation or in life’s circumstances.

“Life is happening around you all the time,” Moore said. “I would never get writer’s block, it’s impossible. There’s so much stuff going on.”

And life, for him, is about more than just music.

“I like to have fun,” Moore said. “I want to live. I spent all my 30s writing every day, so I got my skills up pretty good. Now I put in a lot of hours of living.” ———

If you go: What: Keb’ Mo’ When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Beasley Coliseum in Pullman Cost: $18, $28 or $35. Tickets are available through TicketsWest outlets, including the Beasley Coliseum ticket office, or (800) 325-SEAT (7328).

Schmidt can be contacted at or at (208) 305-4578.

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