When Keb’ Mo’ first was pitched the idea of releasing a double live album that captured the essence of his 2015 tour, he had a particular and unexpected instruction for his team:
“Make it Hot Pink!”
Indeed, that’s exactly what they did with Keb’ Mo’ LIVE.
It began as almost an afterthought and an assortment of concert gems “for the fans,” because his front of house engineer decided to hit “record” at the beginning of each show. It morphed into a noteworthy, carefully culled historical document highlighting Keb’ and his band during their 2015 run. Featuring 16 tracks captured in nine different cities, Keb’ is backed by keyboardist Michael B. Hicks, bassist Stan Sargeant and drummer Casey Wasner, who also produced the record and received a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Engineered Album – Non-Classical for BLUESAmericana. Recording, selecting and mixing the tracks for this project offered a depth of learning for Keb’, Wasner and sound engineer/mixer, Aaron Hedden – one that would have been unattainable solely through touring together. Immersing into the details of each performance provided valuable insight for all, offering educational glimpses of what worked successfully and what could be improved or changed during a live performance setting.
This double LIVE project represents a brilliantly chosen collection from the song catalog that has made Keb’ Mo’ an industry icon. His combination of masterful, anecdotal writing skills, distinctive guitar versatility and rich, resonant, blues-soaked vocals are a testament to his longevity as a singer/writer. Playful moments with the audience, a signature of his live concert experience, are tastefully captured and his wit and depth shine most significantly just prior to the album’s final track, the hauntingly beautiful “City Boy.” Every song tells a story, and every story reminds us why Keb’ Mo’ is one of the most versatile and engaging musical raconteurs on today’s roots rock and blues scene.
It all took off for Keb’ Mo’ in 1994 with the self-titled release under his newly coined “Keb’ Mo’” moniker, and he proved once and for all that he was a musical force to be reckoned with. Album after album, 11 in total, garnered him 3 Grammy awards and a producer/engineer/artist Grammy Certificate for his track on the 2001 Country Album of the Year, Hank Williams Tribute – Timeless. He has received 8 additional Grammy nominations including Country Song of the Year for “I Hope,” co-written with The Dixie Chicks, and 3 alone for his 2014 release, BLUESAmericana including Americana Album of the Year. Keb’ also has been awarded 11 Blues Foundation Awards and 6 BMI Awards, 5 of which are from his theme song for the hit television show, Mike and Molly. The list of artist collaborations comprises a veritable who’s who in the music industry and includes Bonnie Raitt, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, Lyle Lovett, Melissa Manchester, Timothy B. Schmit, Marcus Miller and many more. His songs have been recorded by B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke, Robert Palmer and Zac Brown Band.
Keb’ is humble and committed to paying it forward. He proudly has been a long-time supporter of the Playing For Change Foundation, a nonprofit organization that creates positive change through music and arts education, and 5% of the proceeds from sales of Keb’ Mo’ LIVE will benefit the foundation and its cause. PFCF provides free music education to over 1,000 children in 9 countries and has established 12 music schools around the world. But they even take it a step farther, working with partners to address basic needs in the communities where they teach, including providing education, clean water, food, medicines, clothing, books and school supplies, just to name a few. Over 16,000 children and community members have seen drastic quality of life improvements thanks to PFCF.
Additionally, Keb’ is a newly appointed member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as part of the Turnaround: Arts program, which focuses on elementary and middle schools. Each artist adopts a school in a low-income, underachieving area and becomes a mentor, working with teachers, students, parents and the community to help build a successful arts education program and to highlight the positive impact it will have on students. Keb’ serves as mentor at The Johnson School of Excellence in Chicago, Illinois.
* * *
As a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, producer, actor, mentor and consistently excellent performer, Keb’ Mo’ is a true American icon. He handles himself with grace and style as evidenced in this entire collection, from the unique “hot pink” album packaging to the feeling the music inspires while listening to it. For those who never had the experience of enjoying his live show, this is the next best thing. There is a smooth cadence that transports you to a simpler time in life, when a concert audience was respectful and the artist could interact with fans in a positive, engaging way. Without even realizing it, you will find yourself humming along, dancing and laughing as the true “slice of life” vibe shines through and catches you in a spellbound moment of aural euphoria. Because, after all, “Life is Beautiful,” truly.
The Keb’ Mo’ Band Members:
Drummer/singer/writer/producer and multi-instrumentalist Casey Wasner is a self-taught musician whose passion for music led him from his native Minnesota to Nashville, where he honed his craft and connected with musicians who recognized his many talents both on stage and in the studio. He has been an integral part of the recording and production process for the last two Keb’ Mo’ releases, including the new live record.
Bassist Stan Sargeant, who got his start in Los Angeles, has supported an impressive list of musicians over the years, both live and in the studio. Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Keiko Matsui, Dolly Parton, Mindi Abair, Leonard Cohen, David Benoit, Barry Manilow and Al Jarreau are just a few of the many names on Sargeant’s lengthy resume, and he also served as the in-house band bassist for The Howie Mandel Show and The Tonight Show.
Keyboardist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Michael B. Hicks is a staple on the Nashville funk and soul music scene and is a 5 time recipient of a Nashville Independent Music Award.
Written by Michelle Wilson