Full title: Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Keb' Mo'.
Personnel includes: Keb' Mo' (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica); Joellen Friedkin, Tommy Eyre, Greg Phillinganes (keyboards); Reggie McBride, James "Hutch" Hutchinson, Nathan East (bass); Laval Belle, Jim Keltner, Ricky Lawson (drums).
Producers: Keb' Mo', John Lewis Parker, John Porter, Russ Titelman.
Compilation producer: Nedra Olds-Neal.
Recorded between 1994 & 2003. Includes liner notes by Martin Scorsese and Billy Altman.
Personnel: Keb' Mo' (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica); Colin Linden (guitar); Joellen R. Friedkin, Greg Phillinganes, Tommy Eyre (keyboards); Steve Jordan (drums, percussion); Laval Belle, Jim Keltner, Ricky Lawson (drums); Tony Draunagel, Munyungo Jackson (percussion).
Liner Note Authors: Billy Altman; Martin Scorsese.
Recording information: Burbank, CA (1994-2003); Los Angeles, CA (1994-2003); Santa Monica, CA (1994-2003).
Photographers: Frank Ockenfels; John Halpern.
The occasion of the series of television films broadcast under the umbrella title The Blues in the fall of 2003 provided the opportunity to compile the highlights of Keb' Mo''s recording career thus far into a single-disc collection. One might argue that, with only four regular albums under his belt (there was also a children's album, Big Wide Grin), Keb' Mo' wasn't quite ready for a best-of, but those albums attracted a wide audience among blues fans; each one lodged in the Top Five of Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart, and the second and third, Just Like You and Slow Down, won Grammys for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Actually, it's the self-titled first album from 1994 that is the most impressive (as well as the least "contemporary"), and six tracks from it have been excerpted here, with three from Just Like You, four from Slow Down, and one from the fourth album, The Door. "Crapped Out Again" appeared on the Tin Cup soundtrack in 1996, and the final track, "Piece of Mind," is a new recording. While Keb' Mo' covers Robert Johnson twice here, he generally uses traditional blues only as a touchstone, preferring to write his own songs in a blues-influenced but essentially pop style, and play them in the same manner. The film series wasn't a chronological documentary in the manner of Ken Burns' Jazz, but if it were, Keb' Mo' would have come at the end as an example of the kind of music blues has evolved into, for better or worse. He is a part of the story, but, at least on the basis of this compilation, not a major figure in it as yet. (Happily, the compilation was not released at a major price. Like the other titles in the series, it was given a mid-line list price of only $11.98). ~ William Ruhlmann