Keb’ Mo’ is back after a two-year absence following his highly successful Slow Down album with another set of songs that blends acoustic country blues with some funk ("Gimme What You Got"), light jazz ("It’s All Coming Back") and electric blues. His music continues to surprise, and his lyrics demonstrate a growing maturity that adds to Kevin Moore’s standing as one of the finest contemporary blues artists to emerge in the last decade.
Keb’ Mo’ shares production duties here with industry veteran Russ Titelman, and the result is a program that delineates an emotional and musical landscape as varied as the characters Moore writes about. The title cut, opening up the album, presents the viewpoint of someone who has experienced a spiritual awakening, and Keb’s trademark soulful singing, sure-fingered guitar playing, hefty harp work and a radio-friendly hook should guarantee it some FM radio play.
"Loola Loo" evokes the image of a mournful Delta man sitting on his porch, keeping time with his foot as he sings. "Anyway" pictures a custodian longing for a woman who has dropped her diamond earring, and the acoustic "Mommy Can I Come Home" uses a persona who reveals a painful past and makes a plea for forgiveness.
Greg Phillinganes’ keyboards dominate on Keb’ Mo’s reading of Elmore James’ "It Hurts Me Too," but Keb’s slide guitar helps bring the song into a contemporary focus. And in "Stand Up (And Be Strong)" he sings with revolutionary fervor: "We’ve gotta make our move, get out of our way / ’Cause we’ve been waiting too long." Strong backing from Sergio Gonzalez and Jim Keltner on drums and Freddie Washington on bass makes the music flow effortlessly without sounding over-produced.
The end result is a solid, satisfying disc that mines the new while extending the vernacular of the traditional blues. The Door should garner Keb’ Mo’ a few more award nominations and the larger audience he clearly deserves.
— John Koetzner