Keb' Mo' bringing bluesy sound, new music to Luther Burbank Center

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If You Go

What: Keb’ Mo’ in concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $39, $59 and $149

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

Blues star Keb’ Mo’ — short for his real name, Kevin Moore — doesn’t like to brag about himself.

“I’ve grown tired of interviews. I suck at interviews,” he said by phone recently from his Nashville home. “I got nothin’ to say.”

That’s when his wife, Robbie Brooks Moore, got on the line. “I’m gonna jump in here, ‘cause Kevin’s the most humble person ever.”

From then on, the two of them began to banter back and forth, with Robbie coaxing and charming her husband, and Keb’ Mo’ gradually warming to the topic and talking freely about his music.

The soft-spoken 67-year-old musician, who eventually admitted that he has accomplished more in his career than he ever hoped, will bring his masterful musical stylings May 16 to the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.

Perhaps he’s sometimes shy on the phone, but he comes alive onstage. “If I go onstage and there’s a hundred people, or a thousand, or ten thousand, those are the most important people to me,” he said.

Keb’ Mo’ also considers his hours in recording studios well-spent.

“Recording is fun. I just got done in the studio yesterday,” he said. “I recorded the last three songs for my Christmas album that’s coming out in November. I did ‘Santa Claus Blues’; that’s an old one from the ’30s. And there’s “Merry, Merry Christmas’ by KoKo Taylor and ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ by Charles Brown.”

That will be his second major release this year. He also has put together a new 10-song collection due out June 19 called “Oklahoma,” featuring a duet with Rosanne Cash titled “Put a Woman in Charge,” which came out as a single last fall. His wife, Robbie, is also featured on the album.

“We sing a duet called ‘Beautiful Music’ that Kevin and John Lewis Parker wrote,” she said. “They didn’t know who would sing the duet. They tried a few ideas, but nothing sounded authentic.” So she stepped in and recorded the track with her husband.

The past couple of years have been especially productive for the veteran bluesman. In 2017, Keb’ Mo’ released “TajMo,” a collaborative album he recorded with his longtime hero, Taj Mahal, winning Keb’ his fourth Grammy Award.

The musician’s resume shows that Keb’ Mo’ is not necessarily shy. He has been featured on TV and in films, playing Robert Johnson in the 1998 documentary “Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl”, appearing three times on the television series “Touched By An Angel”, and portraying the ghostly bluesman Possum in John Sayles’ 2007 movie, “Honeydripper”.

And it’s not really the interviews that bother him so much. He just gets frustrated with what he considers shallow talk.

“I want to have conversations about the music. I don’t want to do aimless promo just for the sake of it. At this point, after years and years of interviews, it’s overkill. Sometimes, we never get into a conversation about the music.”

Wife Robbie, 49, handles social media for her husband. “One of my skills is looking at the big picture,” she said, prompting Keb’ Mo’ to add: “I got on Twitter for two days, and then I canceled it.”

He considers Jackson Browne, one of the many music stars he has worked with over the years, a master at giving interviews and fielding questions.

“Jackson Browne can turn on a dime. I can’t turn on a dime. I’m like a semi-truck, you know?” he said. “I’m very intense and intentional about what I do.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: Keb’ Mo’ in concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $39, $59 and $149

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

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