Review - Keb Mo, Kristina Train
Those Feel-Good, Comfy Blues
Keb’ Mo’, Kristina Train
The Egg, Oct. 25
Trying to define the meaning of the blues gets tedious fast, but one thing it is not is life when it gets too comfortable. Keb’ Mo’, who hails not from the Mississippi Delta or Chicago’s South Side, grew up in California as Kevin Moore, where he landed a job in Los Angeles as a staff writer for Tijuana Brass leader Herb Alpert’s A&M label. After his apprenticeship in A&M’s pop shop, he harnessed his powerful baritone, mastered both acoustic and electric guitar, and reinvented himself as Keb’ Mo’, bluesman—and I use the term with reservations. Sure, the outward trappings of the blues are all there, but many of his lyrics tend toward feel-good, clichéd formulas that reflect little of the genre’s anguish, originality, and raw vitality. Notwithstanding the two-time Grammy winner’s impressive musical accomplishments, that’s why Keb’ Mo’s generously long set at a packed Egg ultimately fell short.
by Reggie McBride on drums, Les Falconer on drums, and Jeff Paris on
keyboards, mandolin, and harmonica, the tall, lanky Moore could do it
all as a roots guitarist: play slide on his steel-bodied resonator
guitars, fingerpick his acoustic with his thumb driving the bass strings
like a piston, and toss off zippy single-note lines on his shiny red
electric. And his vocals were just kickass-strong, clear, and unerringly
on-key. He was an engaging showman to boot, setting out a notepad on the
edge of the stage for the audience to come up and write their requests
on, and then joking that he wasn’t going to play any of them (he did).
His lackluster songwriting, though, didn’t give props to his chops or his singing. Early on came “City Boy,” with its hackneyed theme of the urbanite yearning for greener environs: “ ’Cause I want to go where the buffalo roam, I’m just a city boy looking for a home.”
In “Whole Nutha Thang,” Moore disclaims interest in cocaine, weed, or whiskey, but confesses that jelly roll has possessed his soul. That’s an obvious rehash of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” He did redeem himself briefly, though, with a pristine solo version of Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain.”
Opener Kristina Train, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist- keyboardist, was a dazzling young singer, and it seems likely that even though her maiden CD just came out, we’ll be hearing lots more from her. Train played the fiddle just passably on one song, but at her age she has time to woodshed. The highlight of her appearance was “Spilt Milk,” the well crafted, jazz-tinged title track of her record.
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