Keb Mo – Good To Be (Rounder Records)
For more than a decade now, Blues/Americana great Keb’ Mo’ has been living in Nashville, but his native Compton, California was always home. With his latest, Good To Be, Mo’ manages to connect the two seamlessly.
Recorded in both cities – including setting up equipment in Mo’’s childhood home – the result is a great effort that slips a little more into the Americana/Roots mode than many of his earlier records. One of the highlights here is “The Medicine Man,” with Mo’ backed up by Old Crow Medicine Show for a blissful four-minute Blues/Bluegrass hybrid jam.
He also brings in Kristin Chenoweth for the album closer, “Quiet Moments,” which is surprisingly affecting. His collaboration with Darius Rucker though on “Good Strong Woman” on paper seems like a perfect fit but to my ear sounds a little uninspired in practice.
The themes are all encompassing here, from tougher issues like social justice (“Marvelous To Me”) and a powerful cover of “Lean On Me,” to universal songs about finding love (“Like Love”) and losing it (“Dressed Up in Blue”). At times the strings and horns seem a little synthetic and risk overpowering the album, but Mo’s unmistakable guitar and commanding voice save the music every time.
Recorded after the global pandemic forced Mo’ and his band off the road for than a year, the songs offer a mix of new music written during the shutdown and older tunes that date back almost five decades.
“This album is where I’m at right now,” says Mo’. “It might not fit neatly into a certain category, even though the music biz and algorithms like to keep me tightly in the blues genre. Don’t get me wrong, the blues is a very important part of my experience, but it’s not all of who I am musically. Years ago, I drove around in LA delivering flowers and listening to some of the greatest Nashville artists on the radio, and now that I’ve lived here a while, it’s probably shaped me even more. So, the album might be ‘all over the place,’ but the common denominator is always going to be me.”
And those Nashville influences are stronger on Good To Be than most of his other records, but the opening title track serves as the driving theme for most of this record. Irresistibly positive, the chorus says it all “It’s good to be here/It’s good to be anywhere/it’s good to be back/It’s good to be home again.”
Find more info here: https://kebmo.com
Check out our earlier interview of Keb’ Mo’, here: Interview: Keb’ Mo’ on Honorary Degree from Williams College, Family, Plastic, and New Album “Oklahoma”