Keb’ Mo’

Good To Be…
(Concord)

Since the mid-1990s, Keb’ Mo’ has been the epitome of a craftsman whose popular music benefits from a thorough grounding in traditional blues. His latest album, Good To Be…, streaked in places with country music, is mildly entertaining.

On top of his game, Mo’ retains the sound of cordiality and compassion in his singing voice, and his songwriting exhibits his gift for emotionally direct melodies. He’s all for the power of love, hope, resiliency and rootedness.

However, “Good To Be (Back Home),” a salute to his childhood neighborhood near Los Angeles, is excessively sentimental, and several of his love songs, including main offender “Quiet Moments,” tend toward saccharinity.

“Louder,” his rally cry for a new generation of reformers, is all bombast. Somewhat better is a cover of Bill Withers’ worn-out “Lean On Me.

Two songs with country star Vince Gill are unexceptional; so’s the summer coastal idyll “Sunny And Warm.”

Mo’ raises his game when moving his lyrics and music in the direction of bluesy gumption. Regret over a failed relationship toughens “Dressed Up,” which has his only solo on the album.

Romantic unease, this time tangled up with a liberating joy, motors “’62 Chevy” in an interesting manner.

The ballad “Marvelous To Me” gets boosts from blues guitarist Kingfish Ingram and an uncloying string section.

Also on the plus side is the 70-year-old’s folk-country connection with his Nashville neighbors the Old Crow Medicine Show band — their fun allegory “The Medicine Man” suggests they should record a full album together.



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