At a time when a multiple Grammy Award winner might be doing victory laps with concerts of their greatest hits, blues artist Kevin Roosevelt Moore, better known as Keb’ Mo’, has been busy winning more awards. In 2019, 25 years after the release of his debut album under the name Keb’ Mo’, he released Oklahoma, which won him a 2020 Grammy for Best Americana album. Featuring cameos from Taj Mahal, with whom he released the 2018 Grammy winner, “TajMo”; Rosanne Cash, Robert Randolph. Jaci Velasquez and Keb’ Mo’s wife, Robbie Brooks Moore, the album addresses topics like immigration, depression, pollution, love and female empowerment.
The inspiration for the title track, “Oklahoma” was a visit Keb’ Mo’ made to the state in 2013 for a benefit show after a destructive tornado. “I thought about what it must be like to live in Oklahoma and all the great people that have come from Oklahoma,” he said.
He had a melody in his head but no song until he met Oklahoma native and songwriter Dara Tucker. They set out to portray the history of America as it played out in her home state, with Native American connections and tragedy, natural and man-made disasters, incredible music, the Tulsa sound, ruggedness’ and perseverance. They also mention the destruction of the ”Black Wall Street” in Tulsa in 1921, a devastating part of race relations in the country.
The artist is proud of what he and others have created. “I’d been working on a lot of records for other people, so I worried it might be a weak record because I didn’t have my eye on the ball and was spreading myself too thin,” he said. “But when all was said and done, we found the songs and we got the feeling right and now I feel really, really proud of it.”
Keb’Mo’s career began with his playing steel drums and bass in a calypso band, he went on to play backup for a variety of bands and started recording in the 1970s with Jefferson Airplane violinist Papa John Creach. His first gold record was for a song called “Git Fiddler” that he co-wrote with Creach for the Jefferson Starship. He adopted the name Keb’ Mo’ in 1994 as his career took off. His albums have won five GRAMMY Awards with 12 nominations, in total. The talented artist has also been awarded 14 Blues Foundation Awards and six BMI Awards for his work in TV and film. He has performed at the White House for President Obama.
Over the last two decades, Keb’ Mo’ has fashioned a reputation as a modern master of American roots music. Artists from B.B. King to Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks to Melissa Manchester have recorded his songs and he has collaborated with a who’s who of the music industry, including Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Vince Gill, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, India Arie, Lyle Lovett and Marcus Miller. His guitar prowess has garnered him three invites to Eric Clapton’s acclaimed Crossroads Festival and has inspired Gibson Brands to issue the Keb’ Mo’ Signature Bluesmaster and Bluesmaster Royale acoustic guitars and Martin Guitars to issue the HD-28KM Keb’ Mo’ Limited Edition Signature Model.
An artist who recognizes the role of music in social change, he is a long-time supporter of the Playing for Change Foundation, a non-profit that creates positive change through music in nine countries, He is also a celebrity mentor with the Kennedy Center’s Turnaround Arts Program, which focuses on elementary and middle schools throughout the United States. Keb’ Mo’ is a mentor at the Johnson School of Excellence in Chicago.
“I’m more interested in pleasing myself and making records that make me feel proud and feel like I’ve done my best,” Keb’ Mo’ said about Oklahoma. “If other people like it, that is gravy.” He has consistently made music that reflects his passions and interests and earned a reputation for his ability to draw upon his extensive roots music knowledge to make deeply expressive, personal music.
He’ll be up close and very personal at The Lyric. Don’t miss it.