YOUNG MAN BLUES
The bluesman is a Grammy nominee with the Dixie Chicks for co-writing the song "I Hope" in the Best Country Song category.
Mo' bettah blues
You play the blues from your own hard life experience, or just by surviving into adulthood, or maybe you're just naturally talented at absorbing and interpreting. Certainly, Los Angeles-raised Kevin Moore had no direct contact with the hostile South of the '20s and '30s, when a black man on his lonesome could conceivably trade his soul for musical genius, at midnight down at the crossroads, though more likely it was just the daily scuffle to survive that put the devil's into a man's blue soul.
With opening guest Trevor Hall
» Place: Hawaiian Hut, Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive
» Time: 8:30 p.m. Friday
» Tickets: $40 advance and $55 gold circle seating, available at Jelly's in Aiea, Easytok Wireless at Stadium Mall, Liquor Collection at Ward Warehouse, Good Guys Music in Kapahulu, Hungry Ear in Kailua, Rainbow Books on University, and Samurai in Kapolei
» Call: 808-941-5205 or charge-by-phone 808-545-2980
» Also: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Honokaa People's Theater on the Big Island (808-775-3378) and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Palace Theater in Hilo (808-934-7777)
Nope, it was Kevin Moore's Southern-raised parents, plus a dose of roaring gospel music at the local Baptist fount and piles and piles of records that exposed the young man to the stylings of Robert Johnson and other Mississippi Delta masters.
Moore played for Los Angeles R&B bands, got a steady gig with fiddler Papa John Creach and became a solid guitarist in the late '70s and early '80s, an era not noted for reliable performers. Then he portrayed Robert Johnson in a stage play, and something happened.
Kevin Moore went into a recording studio and emerged as Keb' Mo', one of the nation's premier interpreters of acoustic blues.
Mo' is playing in Honolulu on Friday night at the Hawaiian Hut, and headlining the Hamakua Music Festival on Saturday, a fundraiser for music education.
What should we expect? Keb' Mo' has been plugging away in the studio, but we have his latest album to spin. "Peace -- Back by Popular Demand" finds Mo' in an interpretive mood, reprising peace-oriented tunes from the '60s.
Mo' has always mixed traditional blues with Motown soul -- hey, Mo'town! -- and a rootsy acoustic groove that draws on the trail blazed by rural music resurrectionist Ry Cooder. The sound has won him only two Grammys, but wooed new fans to the blue side of the street.
Mo' likes to take standards and turn them inside out, such as taking Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and making it a Norah Jones-style piano thumper, or turning the Rascals' Philly-sounding "People Got to Be Free" into a gospel up-with-people choral meditation that's curiously restrained, or a jazzy, George Benson tuxxy nightclub sound to Marvin Gaye's "What's Happening Brother."
More interesting is Mo's own composition "Talk" -- very Ry in its acoustic slide guitar, brush drumming and soulful chorus -- about the difficulty in getting people in charge of the nation to have empathy for other human beings.
Seems like modern times can make a man blue, too.