Album Review: Keb’ Mo’, ‘Good to Be…’
The gospel-inflected soul mover “So Easy” floats gracefully over the flowing river of Michael B. Hicks’ electric piano and Jimmy Nichols’ Wurlitzer and B3, celebrating the power of a love that endures, even in the face of uncertainty and fear. The song rides the waves of Dana Robbins’, Steve Herrman’s, and Bob McChesney’s smooth horn section, and grooves along Keb’ Mo’’s and Akil Thompson’s crunchy guitars; “So Easy” reveals the heart of Mo’’s new album, evoking the warmth and intimacy issuing from the heart of every track.
The album opens with the title track, a jazzy, laid back song with ‘70s soul stylings that recall Hall and Oates. The strains of Gordon Motes’ B3, and Paul Franklin’s crystalline pedal steel licks, as well as Vince Gill’s and Wendy Moten’s background vocals, envelop Mo’’s lyrics with an easygoing affection for home, wherever it might be. The song reverberates brightly, affirming that no matter who are where you are, you always have a home to which you can return: “It’s good to be you / It’s good to be me/It’s good to be young / Good to be old / Good to be home again.”
A reggae vibe carries Mo’’s version of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” and his vocals radiate such soulfulness that we can’t help but feel that Mo’ is singing directly to us; his compassion and his tenderness flow palpably out of his take on Withers’ classic, adding a fresh spiritual dimension to the classic song.
The bluesy rock rhythms of “’62 Chevy” promise good times rocking down the road of love; Mo’’s piercing lead runs propel the song, guiding the Chevy around rocking and reeling musical curves. Old Crow Medicine Show joins Mo’ on “Medicine Man,” a rollicking, carnivalesque song that blends raucous fiddles and harmonica in a stomping sideshow commentary on the pandemic and its effects on our culture.
The spiraling beauty of “Marvelous to Me,” ascending on Steve Dorff’s cascading piano chords, evokes hope and joy in a world that seems to falling around us—“the future looks marvelous to me.” The inspiring anthem “Louder” circles ever upward as it ascends heavenward to affirm the strivings for social justice of a younger generation: “young people are thinkin’/with a mind that’s all their own/they are ready, willing and they are able/ why don’t we just let them take control?/they’re gonna get louder/it’s about to get real.” Mo’’s chorus lifts us up higher and higher as we affirm one another and realize the hope for our future. The song’s chorus needs to be taken up at spots where we sing loudly for social justice and turning our world back to acting with a heart to others.
It’s good to have a new Keb’ Mo’ album; Good to Be… radiates love and hope with a soulfulness that leaves a smile on our face as we sing along with these songs. Every one of them touches our hearts because Mo’’s mellifluous vocals sing directly to the deepest part of us, and his music creates an aura that wraps us in the warmth of that delivery.
Good To Be is available HERE.
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