Okeh/550 Music 69376
On Slow Down, Keb' Mo' (a.k.a. Kevin Moore) continues to carve out a niche that he alone appears to inhabit - that of an acoustic blues artist working in a modern setting. It moves him another step in a progression from the Delta roots of Robert Johnson through the interpretive cross-cultural mastery of Taj Mahal to the gentle, radio-savvy style that brought Bonnie Raitt to the pop mainstream.
In a multi-media interview incorporated into the CD, Keb' Mo' readily acknowledges his admiration for Raitt in particular, as well as the groundwork that Taj Mahal has laid before him, enabling him to apply his blues influences in a broader context. He also explains that as co-producer of Slow Down (with John Lewis Parker), he's taking more control of his own destiny. His two previous releases, Keb' Mo' (1994) and the Grammy-winning Just Like You (1996) were produced by John Porter.
Slow Down indeed is a broad effort, stylistically. The title track is restrained blues-flavored funk, complete with horns. The gentle, reflective "Henry" features the lightly vibratoed keyboard padding that characterizes much of Raitt's most popular hits. "God Trying to Get Your Attention" is revival tent gospel, while "I'm Telling You Now" is an unabashed acoustic pop ballad (and a lovely one, at that).
Only the unaccompanied cover of Johnson's "Love in Vain" and the funky "Soon as I Get Paid" fit the description of blues in the strictest sense. However, throughout are the colors of the blues - Keb' Mo's clean dobro licks, spare arrangements interspersed with blues harp and guitar licks, a little accordion here, a little mandolin there. Traditionalists may prefer the more traditional approaches of Corey Harris or Guy Davis, but that's no accident. Keb' Mo's vision clearly goes well beyond the blues audience, but he's bound to take a heaping helping of blues with him as he goes.
- Bryan Powell