Keb’ Mo’

by Josef Woodard

Just the facts: The artist known as Keb’ Mo’ was born Kevin
Moore in Compton, California in 1951, and has carved out a unique
career persona in the shadow of Taj Mahal. Acoustic country blues
may be a basic part of his musical DNA, which he has championed on
public radio and in Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed Blues project on
PBS. But Mo’ freely wanders into other neighborhoods of idiom and
medium, including theater. On his latest album Peace … Back by
Popular Demand, he revisited activist songs from the ’60s and the
’70s. On Thursday, Mo’ returns to Campbell Hall, where he courted
an SRO house in 2002.

Your album Peace … Back by Popular Demand is a
collection of protest songs, but is the protest song something of a
lost art now?
We’re not hearing many, although the time is
ripe for it, wouldn’t you say? I don’t think we’re in a very
protest-oriented time. We’re more in a time of watching what you’re
saying. In the protesting spirit during Vietnam, in the ’60s,
people weren’t afraid to speak out. There were the three major
assassinations of that era—Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and
Robert Kennedy. There was a feeling of “What the hell is going on
out here?” Now, we’ve got these war people in the White House.
We’ve heard protest songs and they seem to bounce off people’s

Things are different economically now, too, because people are
spending much more time trying to make ends meet. They have way
less time for protesting. In the ’60s, the price of living and what
your check was, was a lot closer than it is now for a lot of
people. There weren’t as many two-salary homes. People are just
trying to pay the rent.

You’ve found nice ways to mix rootsy styles with
contemporary ideas. Was that always a goal?
That’s just
kind of who I am. It was never something I tried to do. All those
elements make up what I am, so they’re very easy to blend. I think
I understand what the rules are, what genres are supposed to do,
and how they’re all held together. I’m not doing anything really
deep. All of music really does that. It’s a pretty easy thing to
do. What’s hard to do is probably to market that blend, because
music is pretty compartmentalized. When you mix compartments, it
causes problems. I fly under the radar anyway, so no one really
cares if I mix genres. KIIS-FM isn’t going to worry about what to
do with me.

Is there a comfort knowing that much of the best music
now flies under the radar?
Yeah. I remember when I sold
cars, a long time ago, I learned a trick: They put the cars that
are hard to sell in the showroom. I look at the radio as the

[4 · 1 · 1] Keb’ Mo’ performs at UCSB’s
Campbell Hall on Thursday, October 27. Call 893-3535.


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