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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Keb Mo - The Reflection

Keb Mo - The Reflection
2011, Yolabelle International/Rykodisc

When you are near the peak of your profession there's little impetus to change.  This fact about humanity and human tendency is hard to ignore.  Yet evolution is essential to the artist, as inspiration and creativity thrive on the new.  No one could fault Keb Mo for sticking with what has worked for him for so long.  Having won three GRAMMY Awards for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Keb Mo has established himself as one of the Mo’st dynamic blues musicians working today.  But since his last album in 2006, Keb Mo’s life has been about transitions (new family, new hometown, new label).  It was inevitable that a new musical direction would follow.  Keb Mo recently released his newest album, The Reflection, an amalgam of all of his influences from across his career, displayed in twelve fresh and modern pop, blues and R&B songs that display the same subtlety and songwriting grace that has characterized Keb Mo’s work thus far in his illustrious career.

The Reflection opens with "The Whole Enchilada", a blend of funk, pop and R&B that shows big pop sensibility and substance.  The song is a challenge to a friend to be a stand-up man in a relationship.  The message carries a universal appeal, and is punctuated by Keb Mo’s pervasively subtle guitar work.  "Inside Outside" is a catchy funked-up bit of modern blues.  Keb Mo never seems to make a bad musical choice; never a bad note or uncomfortable transition in this amalgam of musical perfection (if such there be).  "All The Way" is a swaying R&B love song with a light, lazy feel to the melody.  Keb Mo sews it all together so nary a seam is visible.

"The Reflection" is a gentle R&B ballad that's perfect for Adult Contemporary radio.  Don't be surprised if this song breaks out both there and in pop and urban formats.  At the very least it's the sort of song that will be featured on soundtracks for romantic comedies several times over the coming years.  "Crush On You" is a solid commercial ballad that is best noted for the vocal mix between Keb' Mo and guest India.Arie.  Keb Mo goes down tempo on the blues/pop/AC blend of "My Baby's Tellin' Lies"; an amusing song about a dysfunctional relationship that works.  Just like the narrator, you won't be able to walk away from this one.  Vince Gill sits in here.  Jazz and R&B mix on the impressive story-song "My Shadow".  Keb Mo’s sound here shadows the early Jazz-phase sound of Sting, using great imagery to tell a story about how a woman can come between friends.

"We Don't Need It" starts out as a modern tragedy when a family bread-winner loses his job.  The brilliance here is in the way the family pulls together, discarding things that are unimportant for the sake of each other.  "We Don't Need It" is Mo’st impressive in that imparts a wonderful message that's poignant for the day without sounding preachy.  Perseverance and blessings abound in an amazing bit of songwriting.  "Just Lookin" is a wonderfully funky potential hit about misunderstood intentions.  Keb Mo shows incredible pop sensibility here, as well as the sort of subtle touch on guitar you might expect from Mark Knopfler.  The Reflection closes with "Something Within", a solid tune with baggage that seems somehow out of place here. 

Keb Mo might have thrown long time fans something of a curve with The Reflection, but it's a knockout curve that's impressive on many levels.  The songwriting here ranges from mildly above average to utterly brilliant, trending toward the latter.  Keb Mo’s presence as a performer comes through even on CD, and his subtle guitar work is ingenious.  Keb Mo plays the guitar as if he was born with it in his hands.  Even the few mundane moments on The Reflection are worth spending some time on, but at his best, Keb Mo performs at a level that few can attain.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Keb Mo at or  The Reflection is available from as a CD, Download, or Deluxe Download.  iTunes also offers standard and deluxe downloads of the album. 

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