By Dan Burnett - For | Weekender

Ten rounds with Keb’ Mo’, aka Kevin Moore, prior to show at F.M. Kirby Center

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Having cultivated a decorated career as a blues guitarist and songwriter, Keb’ Mo’ is now on tour with one of the bluesmen he looked up to along the way, Taj Mahal.
Courtesy of Ned Bowen

1) What can Wilkes-Barre expect to see at the show on Aug. 10?

There will be songs from the “TajMo” album, of course, because that’s what the tour is about. Plus we will mix in songs from both our personal catalogues. We will be backed by a nine-piece ensemble made up of talented musicians. We have two harmonica players, me and Taj. I am the emergency harp player in case we need it. Two of Taj’s daughters, Deva and Zoe, also will be on stage doing backup vocals.

2) What have you learned from Taj Mahal?

Taj is such a great teacher, the best there is, because he’s done what he teaches you over and over again and in so many ways. He’s rooted in the blues, but he has done everything — jazz, Jamaican music, music from Africa, Americana songs — so he knows what he’s teaching you. He’s a musical god. I’ve been hanging out with him for three years (during the album collaboration and tour) and I still learn something from him every day. He’s a real gentleman, but he’s not a pushover by any means.

3) Have you ever played or spent much time in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and if so, what are your impressions?

I played at the Pocono Blues Festival years ago, but I never played in your town, and I will not likely get to explore it, though I would like to. That doesn’t happen much for me because I get obsessed about why we’re there and devote everything I’ve got to doing the show we are there to do. I’m probably too obsessed about doing the best job I can, but I can’t help that. That’s who I am.

4) What are your personal favorites off the TajMo album?

Mo’ was reluctant to single out any of the 11 songs as favorites. “I like them all, I do,” he said. But he said he was fond of “Om Sweet Om,” a soulful ballad (with jazz and gospel singer Lizz Wright taking the lead on the vocals as a guest performer on the album) and “Shake Me in Your Arms.”

5) Whose idea was it to give British band The Who’s “Squeeze Box” a Caribbean/zydeco slant, and what was Pete Townsend’s reaction?

That was my stupid idea because I wanted to make sure there was some fun on the album. I don’t know what Pete thinks about it, but my living in New Orleans for a while gave me an appreciation for that kind of music and all the fun it brings to life.

6) Can you share with us a little about the other musicians who will be on stage with you?

Our band is made up of heavyweights in terms of musicianship. All have great experience playing in gigs. We have two horn players, a saxophone player and a guy who used to be in the “Tonight Show” band. Plus, two of Taj’s daughters, Deva and Zoe, provide vocal and string backup on the tour.

7) Will there be another Taj and Mo collaboration?

No, I don’t think we will do another one because that would make us an act. This is a onetime deal, a collaboration. When this is over, we’ll each go back to doing our own thing because we both still have a lot of music to make on our own.

8) At age 65, how does it feel to be the young guy of the tour?

I don’t feel like the young guy at all. Sometimes I feel old. Taj (he’s 75) is so full of life, ideas and music, it’s hard to keep up with him.

9) What advice do you have for young musicians struggling to make their passion a career?

You have to love it and give it everything you got because it’s an art form that takes full dedication. Always stay true to the music and most importantly, your storytelling. You may not make it because there are many factors in play — and money doesn’t always count — but the important thing is to stay true to the art form and your storytelling. That’s what’s important in this world.

10) What advice would you leave us with?

Be true to yourself and try to see the better side of life, because it’s there if you look for it.

Having cultivated a decorated career as a blues guitarist and songwriter, Keb’ Mo’ is now on tour with one of the bluesmen he looked up to along the way, Taj Mahal.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/web1_KebMo.jpgHaving cultivated a decorated career as a blues guitarist and songwriter, Keb’ Mo’ is now on tour with one of the bluesmen he looked up to along the way, Taj Mahal. Courtesy of Ned Bowen

By Dan Burnett

For | Weekender