Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S



Keb Mo: The Reflection (Yolabelle International/Rykodisc)

Keb mo: The Reflections



Rate this Album

UK release date 03.10.2011

Keb Mo was born Kevin Moore. Three-time Grammy winner. Friends in high places, he has guested on countless big name artists’ albums and projects. His songs have been covered by a myriad of stars. Known for his rootsy blues, heavily influenced by Robert Johnson.

“The Reflection” – his first studio album since 2006 - marks quite a change in the man, personally and musically. He says he expected some people to hate it, and many to ask “what’s this.” But he went ahead anyway. It is not blues, but it is bluesy. It is most definitely full of soul. And heart.

“The Whole Enchilada.” Al Green territory, and a real authentic retro soul sound. Juicy slide solo from Keb. Good start. “Inside Outside,” has a lovely strong hook, a superb groove and a thicker, a more produced lead vocal, compared to the opener. Lyrical content has a nice sentiment; about getting out what you put in, and projecting a positive attitude.

“All The Way,” treats us to some Steely Dan style horns, where Keb stretches on the vocal. Title track, “The Reflection” is a laid back song, with jazz twists and turns in its structure. On first listen I almost wrote this one off. Then on subsequent listens, I got into it, and realised I was wrong, and that this is actually a fairly unique song. I do know this is Mr Moore’s personal fave from the album….. Because he told me! I hear vulnerability in his voice on this, and there’s some absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous…and I’ll say it again, gorgeous guitar, from Motown legend David T Walker on this track. Reminding me of the late, great Cornell Dupree, and perhaps even the late, great Eric Gale, in playing style. Lovely licks.

“Crush On You,” pairs Keb up with the sublime soul talents of Ms India Arie. A sweet and simple song, again a retro soul tip, written by Keb’s road band keyboard player, Kevin So eight years ago. A very classy vocal from India and from Keb. The two voices blend well. Very chilled out vibe, both singers leave space for the song to breathe, and to create a real candle-light and silk sheets moment. (I vaguely remember those days!) Nice old skool soul, another Cornell moment on guitar, this time from Keb himself. I just love this track. Very radio friendly too, and crying out to be added to those Valentine’s Day love song compilations. Ker-ching.

Half way through the dozen tracks, we venture into covers territory, and the jury is still out for me. The Eagles biggie, “One Of These Nights.” It doesn’t lend itself to provide an obvious vehicle for Keb’s vocal, and the arrangement is pretty different to the original. If it ain’t bust, no need to fix it, and maybe best not to tamper with a song so well known. Saying that, I appreciate the bravery if I can call it that, Keb showed in tackling an off the wall choice of song to do his way. Long may he continue that approach. Just not this song. A friend of mine who is a pro guitarist and a big Eagles fan, said: “it almost works.” I’ll agree with that.

Country star Vince Gill has a great soul voice. Yep. I said it, and I mean it. Teaming up with Keb on this one, his pal from Nashville, where Keb now lives with new wife and baby. The guys wrote this song, “My Baby’s Tellin’ Lies,” and it is back in old soul pastures. I can hear this one getting covered in the future. Love the lyric: “She’s got a body built for sin.” Let me just conjure up that mental image a minute………….. Keb turns in a beautiful guitar solo, while Vince, a tasty player himself, picks up mandolin on this one. Another ready made for radio track.

Marcus Miller bass super-star, repays his pal for the vocals on two of his albums, on this track, “My Shadow.” This is one of those songs you think you know, with familiar parts, but I just cannot put a finger on where they come from. Probably my own head! A string part may have lifted this. Keb uses acoustic for the solo.

“We Don’t Need It,” is very wordy, with a slightly saccharin sentiment and weak structure to it, for my ears. But that does not matter a bit, as we are about to venture into the very best track on the album. “Just Lookin.” A blinkin’ marvellous track with a funk groove, and some stupendous rhythm guitar from Keb, that Nile Rodgers would be proud of. Clavinet moves it along. Just love the vocal on this. It has a, “Get On The Good Foot,” James Brown vibe to it, which is fine by me. A clever and strong hook. Exploring the situation when a young lady puts it all on a plate, but the married man tells her; he may well have a wandering eye, but he can assure her that is far as it is going to go. He is “just looking.” A lot of musicians I know would come at it from the opposite end…..with the message: ”Fill yer boots son!”

Keb and Allan D Rich wrote this, and provided lovely space for some of the best guitar playing on the CD, in the solo from Keb. We get programmed drums to drive it along nicely, and Marcus Miller is the backbone, although a bit low in the mix perhaps. Three BVs and a tight horn section. Only three minutes and fifty seconds long. I could have coped with 15 minutes of this one. Brilliant performance, excellent song and solid production.

“Walk Through Fire,” written with Melissa Manchester. My notes say…….Jazz vibe. Organ. OK song. Nuff said. Final track, “Something Within Me,” is a family affair. It has Keb’s late Grandfather, mother, sister, cousin and other family on it. Even baby son Carter Mandela Moore, screams his lungs out at the end. Daddys’ CD is not that bad, Carter! Another one where first listen, I wasn’t sure it works. But it grows on you and again, has a slow-release uniqueness to it. You can hear the artistic expression direct from his soul on here. It has a slightly hypnotic effect, and a definite gospel, spiritual quality.

This album could be seen as a real departure from Keb’s trademark blues and roots style he is famed for. It could be seen as too far over on the commercial side. If you are stupid. Me, I may well be stupid, but I know great music and a great artist when I hear it. This is a lovely, lovely album full of soul. Not everything works for me, but show me an album where all of the tracks will appeal to everyone. This is Keb’s debut on his own label after Sony waved goodbye, his home since 1994. On this hearing, their loss. He produced it, he co-wrote the tracks and he should be very happy to have given birth to such a credible album.

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter