Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keb Mo The Reflection 2011

Keb Mo has made some good ones over the years. His 1994 debut modernized acoustic blues just enough to made it a hit, but still keep it real. Slow Down 1998 and Keep It Simple 2004 were both good examples of laid-back electric blues grooves coupled with Mo's simple and heartfelt vocals. There have been some questionable moves, notably Peace...Back By Popular Demand, also 2004, where Mo covers mostly sixties hippy movement classics.

This new one is really a nicely made record, well-recorded, with a crack ace band, but the whole thing comes off like "smooth blues", as in "smooth jazz". Mr. Moore has always been laid-back, but previously that meant he brought to mind those fine Clapton albums from the late seventies that sound so great even today. This one is more like a smooth jazz record than anything else, and I'm a tad surprised by this much pablum from Mo. Sure, you knew he could go there if he wanted, but you didn't really expect him to do it.

Now if smooth blues sounds like a good idea to you, I think you're in for a treat. There are several good tunes here, Mo's voice is in fine form, and Whole Enchilada, Inside out, All The Way, and the India.Arie duet Crush On You are all standouts, with funky slap-bass, horn charts and hooky choruses keeping things interesting. My Baby's Tellin' Lies and Just Lookin' feature funky rhythms and good lead guitar from Mo.

The record has several lyrical low points, including the overly-sentimental We Don't Need It and Something Within. And there are some pretty boring tracks musically as well. My Shadow is reminiscent of Gaucho-era Steely Dan, and not in a good way. The title track is quite the least interesting of all, a too-mellow pop ballad without drama or a hook. A cover of the Eagles One Of These Nights does not work at all, unless you're grocery shopping at the time you hear it.

My first couple of times through it, I enjoyed the record, but I wasn't really paying that much attention. If you don't have Keb Mo 1994 or Slow Down 1998, buy those. If you enjoy smooth jazz artists and want to dip your little toe into a mildly bluesy sound, this new one is for you.

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