Keb’ Mo’ at The Belly Up

Eclectic may not be the first word that comes to mind with an artist as consistent as Keb’ Mo’, but that has proven to the the case. Under the smooth delivery of a seemingly traditional sheen of acoustic blues, Keb’ Mo’ absorbs a variety of influences that blend into a cohesive whole. Born in Compton with an affinity for Nashville, Kevin Moore has been forging a steady path through several decades of performing and recording. 

His latest stop at The Belly Up reaffirmed his mastery, and his five man band provided harmonies and solid back up.  

Johnny Duke moved ably across guitar, mandolin, banjo and lap steel. Dane Farnsworth’s B3 organ lent a soulful flavor throughout, supplemented by Kevin So’s keyboards. The solid rhythm section (Casey Wasner on drums and Antjuan Johnson on bass) built a solid foundation. 

“All Dressed Up” from the excellent new album Good To Be slowed down the early pace, and presaged a switch to acoustic instrumentation.  When he picked up his National steel guitar and donned a harmonica brace, we were in for perhaps the most traditional delivery of the evening. Tracks from the new album were sprinkled through the evening’s setlist.

The album was written partially in Nashville and partially in the Compton house Keb’ grew up in, solid evidence of his eclectic nature. Further evidence? His variety of collaborators on the album: country legend Vince Gill produced three tracks, while famed producer Tom Hambridge (B.B. King, Buddy Guy) helmed several more, and special guests like Darius Rucker, Kristin Chenoweth, and Old Crow Medicine Show appear throughout.  

Yes, you read that right, Kristin of Wicked fame on Broadway. 

Also appearing on the new album are the famed Compton Cowboys, last seen at Stagecoach.  Keb’ has halued in five Grammy Awards, and it is not difficult to see why.  

His performance style is thoroughly engaging, and it is no surprise that he has stated:

“I believe that music has the power to heal, and I wanted this album to make people feel good. I wanted it to bring joy and make them maybe think about where they come from and the journeys that brought them to where they are.”

Keb’s house welcomes all styles: he has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to The White House to The Belly Up; his collaborations range from Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt to The Chicks and Lyle Lovett; his compositions have been recorded and sampled by artists as diverse as B.B. King, Zac Brown and BTS. 

It is doubtful you will see that range of names associated with another artist, yet as we heard at The Belly Up, it all coherently comes together when Keb’ Mo’ takes the stage.       

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.