Archive for February, 2014

country entrepreneur

marty stuart

marty stuart. photo by james minchin III.

It was that rarest of Nashville nights – a Friday at the Franklin Theatre where Marty Stuart, fresh from taping the sixth season of his roots music cable television series, was holding court with his Fabulous Superlatives in tow and no agenda at all to adhere to.

“I always go by the old rule that says, ‘Play the home town sparingly,’” said the veteran country artist who performs tonight at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. “This past Friday night, we had nothing to promote, we had nothing to sell and we had nothing to do except go, ‘Boy, we’ve got 26 episodes of the TV show behind us.’ It was just the band. No guests. We just walked out there and knocked the back out of the place.”

There are no plans to let the momentum slip, either. As completed tapings of The Marty Stuart Show roll out Saturdays on RFD-TV, Stuart himself will oversee continued roadwork with the Superlatives, the publication of two photography books, multiple museum exhibits centered around his massive collection of vintage country music artifacts and the release of a “Saturday Night, Sunday morning project” – specifically, a recording that covers staunchly traditional country and old school country gospel.

It’s enough to make you view Stuart as a full blown country entrepreneur. The singer, however, views such a workload as essential for a longstanding stylist that has increasingly removed himself from the Nashville mainstream.

“In this day and age, you can’t depend on one thing anymore. Not that I ever have. I never had that luxury.

“When I first stepped up to the microphone on my own, I thought, ‘Man, I just want to put my guitar around my neck, stand there and sing songs. And I saw right away that that would never work for me. I found out this was going to take everything I had.”

Stuart cut his musical teeth as a teen alongside such bluegrass and roots music giants as Lester Flatt, Vassar Clements and Doc Watson before joining Johnny Cash’s band in the early’80s. For much of the two decades that followed, Stuart’s own mix of traditional country and rockabilly made him a fixture on country charts and radio.

But it was with the 2001 formation of the Superlatives – guitarist Kenny Vaughan, Winchester-born multi-instrumentalist Paul Martin and drummer Harry Stinson  – that brought Stuart to a crossroads between his commercial country popularity and his traditional country heritage.

“We made a record called Country Music (in 2003) that had some really cool songs on it. But I think I was guilty of trying to walk those waters one more time. You know… ‘Please love me, radio.’ We were going to try to make a legitimate record on one side and reach out for commercial success on the other. So half the record was really good. The other half was misguided. I thought, ‘You have to make up your mind here, Marty Stuart. What are you going to do for real?’ That’s when I knew radio wasn’t really an option for me. With that option off the table, the job got a whole lot easier.

“But when the very culture for which we stand, which was traditional country music, started disappearing, it became important for us to take care of what was left of that culture, provide some new life for it and perhaps write a new chapter for it. That was the idea.

“The road is where those ideas come together. When the audience is into it, when there are butts in the seats and the band is on, there is no feeling like it in the world. Time just disappears. That is the beauty of a live performance. That, to me, is a beautiful night.”

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives perform at 7 tonight at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. Tickets are $30-$45. Call (502) 352-7469 or go to

www.grandtheatrefrankfort.com,

in performance: the robert cray band

robert cray

robert cray.

With Valentine’ Day mere hours away, Robert Cray decided to close out his sold out performance last night at the Lyric Theatre with a somewhat sobering take on the holiday.

The finale tune was Time Makes Two, a song propelled by string-like synths that tightened like a noose as the verses progressed, mallet-played drums that made the music seem less like the blues and more like a processional and guitarwork that shelved Cray’s scholarly soloing abilities in favor of broad, fearsome rhythmic sweeps. And then there was the voice, always the Grammy-winning bluesman’s ace-in-hole. It possessed a gospel fervor that simmered until the song’s telling chorus brought the music to a boil: “Time makes two…it takes two to heal a broken heart.”

A patron exiting the show, figuratively broadsided by the song’s intensity, offered this parting remark: “Damn, Robert. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.”

Well, folks, they do call it the blues. Cray still exuded a cool and amiable stage presence and preferred echoes of Stax-style soul and assorted rhythm and blues accents of equal vintage to pepper his material over conventional 12 bar blues tunes and the kinds of guitar solos designed as exercises in self-torture. Make no mistake, though. This was the blues – all of it topical and much of it refreshingly blunt.

But the primary charm of last night’s concert, outside of the abundant vocal and guitar strengths, was Cray’s ability to make some of his darkest songs sound so disarming. An extraordinary case in point was Poor Johnny, the highlight tune from Cray’s underrated 2005 album, Twenty. The song’s protagonist, a street kid swept into a life of quick riches with immediate consequences, is doomed almost from the get-go. Yet the song unfolded with a percolating neo-reggae groove, chilled keyboard sounds that mimicked B3 organ and vibraphone, a series of cleanly desperate guitar breaks and a vocal performance that tastefully utilized Cray’s still-youthful falsetto as punctuation. It was a brilliant moment.

Cray’s ‘90 material – specifically, the churchy The Forecast (Calls for Pain) – as well as newer tunes such as Great Big Old House (big as in abandoned) added to Cray’s robust valentine, which was delivered to the Lyric audience in a shade of especially becoming blue.

in performance: carrie rodriguez and luke jacobs

carrie and luke

luke jacobs and carrie rodriquez.

The running gag throughout the winter respite performance Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs offered last night at Natasha’s was Valentine’s Day – specifically, an impending show the two were booked for at a Kansas City club called Knucklehead’s. The juxtaposition of sentiments and intent such a setting presented won the duo a few laughs. But there was something telling about it, too, as the majority of the 75 minute set was devoted to a variety of tunes suited for the most devout as well as skeptical of Valentines.

For Austin, Tx. fiddler/songsmith Rodriguez (who also colored the music on occasion with 4 string tenor guitar and electric mandolin), the love songs often possessed a light, limber feel, from the finger-popping glide of Lake Harriett to the summery stride of Get Back in Love.

But Rodriguez’s tunes also took flight from conventional love song themes and structures. Sad Joy and the title tune from her 2006 album Seven Angels on a Bicycle were essentially eulogies even though their messages of love were no less profound. The latter was also beefed up by lap steel guitar runs by Jacobs that allowed the song’s folkish reflection to take a Pink Floyd-ian turn. And for pure nasty fun, Rodriguez let the Valentine’s mood turn electric and earthy on Devil in Mind, I Cry for Love and especially Got Your Name On It. Those ought to go over well for happy hour at Knucklehead’s.

A tasteful, studied instrumentalist and accompanist, Jacobs offered songs with a more humorous but obtuse feel. Among them were the Faust-ian Margarete, which the guitarist said was designed as a 3 ½  minute country music distillation of a 3 ½ hour opera, and Providence and Mystery, which was prefaced by an amusing story of hitchhiking with a pair of drug dealers during the dead of winter in Minnesota.

Jacobs’ songs and instrumentation were continually engaging as was Rodriguez’s singing which proved adaptable enough to stretch its folky intimacy into jazz and country terrain. But the highlight of the evening detached from all of that. During an instrumental medley of fiddle tunes led by a ghostly Wayfaring Stranger, Rodriguez let loose on fiddle with a gorgeous, rustic tone and a stride both unhurried and confident. Her playing sounded beautifully antique yet completely fresh and vital. That’s all you could ever want for Valentine’s Day – be it at Natasha’s or Knucklehead’s.

critic’s picks 314: neil finn, ‘dizzy heights’

dizzy heightsNear the midway point of his first solo album in 13 years, Neil Finn offers an affirmation that is both earthy and spiritual. It surfaces, over and over again, in Better Than TV, a love song of real life wrapped in an orchestral wash of sounds and grooves but presented with a slightly askew posture. It’s as though the pop strategies that so beautifully populated the music he has crafted over the decades with Crowded House were tossed in a washing machine and set on the spin cycle so colors would purposely bleed into one another.

Fascinating as the surface design is, it’s the meditation Finn places underneath it all that best defines the restlessness of an enormously prolific, middle aged popster from New Zealand. It’s a plea for risk-taking as a means of personal discovery at an age when one’s surroundings can often seem strangely settled.

“If there is a chance that you wanted to dance, that you wanted to sing, don’t die wondering,” Finn sings. It’s lovely but unobvious moment on an album filled with them.

Finn co-produced Dizzy Heights with Dave Fridmann, whose studio credits include work with The Flaming Lips. That may partly explain the kind of pop turf the record favors. While it is nowhere near as extravagant as the Lips’ costumed psychedelia, Dizzy Heights possesses a lush pop sensibility that isn’t so much orchestrated as it is submerged.

On the album-opening Impressions, a fractured melody oozes along to keep solemn pace with a storyline of civilization in decline (“I guess we can’t keep the world away, from sinking under pressure”). The mood later slows to a glacial grace on Divebomber with Finn singing in a ghostly, nocturnal falsetto.

The pop charge is more direct during In My Blood, a Crowded House-like reverie with a decidedly familial feel. Wife Sharon Finn, along with sons Liam and Elroy, help out, as they do for much of the record, on bass, guitar and drums, respectively. Wilco-ite and University of Kentucky grad Glenn Kotche then provides percussion for the family band.

But that is one of Dizzy Heights’ more accessible moments. Much of the record possesses a more wintry feel (it was recorded in Buffalo, New York, as well as Auckland) and serves as a collage of neo-psychedelic snapshots. Shifting from demo-style immediacy to icy, surrealistic splendor, Dizzy Heights is a tasty document fashioned by a proven pop family man after sneaking out of the House.

in performance: mikolaj trzaska and tim daisy

mikolaj

mikolaj trzaska.

Among the multitude of percussive sounds Tim Daisy created last night at Mecca during an Outside the Spotlight duo performance with Polish saxophonist Mikolaj Trzaska was the crisp, succinct call from a small gong that partly resembled the ring signaling the end of a boxing round. It was an appropriate form of punctuation for this brave, energetic and wholly enjoyable set of improvisations.

Each artist was loaded with stamina and invention to burn.  While the temperament of their playing was often contentious by design, the hour-long set was less a grudge match than a spirited conversation with alto saxophone (and, briefly, bass clarinet) and percussion continually matching wit and might.

Chicago drummer Daisy has long been a pro at these sorts of exchanges, having played in several sax/drum duos at previous OTS shows. A musician of boundless resourcefulness, he regularly filled the evening’s two extended, untitled improvs with blasts of busy percussive chatter created by metal dishes, cymbals and chains. As devilish as that sounds, Daisy always retained a sense of playfulness. At one point, when the music was especially tumultuous, Daisy slammed his foot on the chaos, inserted a quick swing groove on a cymbal as a sort of live form of sampling, and then returned to bedlam.

Daisy also made subtle use of two new sounds last night – the muffled clang of a cowbell and bits of static and voices from a pair of tiny transistor radios.  The latter furthered the idea of live sampling within these very organic jazz tradeoffs.

Trzaska revealed an extensive vocabulary on alto sax throughout the performance from rustic, boppish colors that often had striking tonal resemblance to tenor sax to longer, liquid runs that embraced the blues. While he matched, and often instigated, many of the set’s playfully restless exchanges, Trzaska also summoned a sense of luscious, fractured cool during the second improv that often brought the more spacious, meditative soloing of John Coltrane to mind. Daisy briefly underscored such segments with the cool rumble of drums played with mallets.

But like so much of this fine concert, these moments never remained settled for long. At the set’s conclusion, the groove warped, the sax and drums returned to their corners and this fun little prize fight wound down with a muted, warbled voice from the radio – a disembodied emcee of sorts for the fearsome instrumental dialogue that had just faded from view.

big blues, smaller soound

tommy castro 2

tommy castro.

As one of the foremost blues-based guitarists of his generation to emerge out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Tommy Castro was used to an ensemble sound fortified by horns, soul and sass. It started with his tenure in the underappreciated West Coast rock and R&B troupe The Dynatones and became a signature of nearly every band he has led since. Until now.

Hungry for music that was more spacious, Castro searched out a more compact group with a rocking blues foundation capable of pushing his guitarwork to the forefront. Thus The Painkillers were born along with a lean but roaring new album, The Devil You Know. And, no, the band name shouldn’t be interpreted as an anecdote for the large, orchestrated bands that previously defined Castro’s music. The quartet is simply the means for a restless guitarslinger to set out on a new musical adventure.

“For one thing, I knew I had to do something different,” said Castro, who performs at Monday’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. It will be the guitarist’s first Lexington appearance since a 1989 concert by The Dynatones.

“I had this big band, the kind of band I always wanted with horns and keyboards and everything. It was a sound that just kept growing as the years went by until the last three or four albums, which went really heavy in the horn arrangement department and a certain kind of R&B groove. I loved it and I enjoyed it and I’m glad I did it. And then I was ready to do something else.

Well before the band change, new sounds were being fed to Castro came by some his closest personal associates – his children.

“I was driving my kids to school in the morning, and my kids have got great taste in music. They played stuff by Jack White and The Black Keys. Then somebody hipped me to Gary Clark Jr. I started listening to Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi’s band. There was a bunch of new blues music on the scene, a little bit more modern sounding stuff that I was really enjoying. That was one thing that happened to me.

“The other thing happened when was I was watching Tab Benoit perform. I’m a big Tab Benoit fan. He was playing just with a bass player and a drummer and I thought, ‘I want to do something like that. I want to play with a sound that has a little bit more breathing room.’  I wanted a sound that was driven by the guitar, that’s more reliant on rhythms and grooves to connect with people. So that started the exploration and the motivation to go in this direction.”

While the smaller, looser feel of The Painkillers (bassist Randy McDonald, keyboardist James Page and drummer David Tucker) may represent a new performance enterprise for Castro, the combo sound they create really isn’t. Castro soaked it in throughout his youth in some of San Francisco’s most cherished music halls.

“I grew up listening to a generation of blues music that came out of the ‘60s. That’s where I started cutting my teeth in learning how to play. I was listening to guys like Eric Clapton and some of the heavier bands like Led Zeppelin and, of course, The Rolling Stones. I listened to a lot of the Chicago blues bands like Paul Butterfield – bands with a tougher, grittier sound.

“Going back, in a way, to that is a very joyful thing. It makes me feel like a kid again. I get out and do shows with The Painkillers and we’re just rocking out. It feels great. “

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers and Tee Dee Young perform at  7 p.m. Feb.10 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third, for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Tickets are $10. Call (859) 252-8888 or go to www.woodsongs.com  

river resonator

jj grey

jj grey. photo by jensen hande.

The use of rivers as symbols of life in music and literature isn’t lost on JJ Grey, nor is the very real body of water that runs through his North Florida homeland. On the newest album with his swamp blues-soul collective Mofro, both rivers – the real and metaphorical – crest together.

The album – more specifically, its title song – is named for the St. Johns River, which runs near Grey’s childhood home outside of Jacksonville. But the song itself isn’t that exact. It chronicles a troubled life in search of salvation (“only this river can save me from myself”) set against the kind of simmering, churchy soul that befits such master stylists as Otis Redding.

“To me, we are in a river of life and time that is just moving forward,” said Grey, who returns to Lexington on Sunday with Mofro for a concert at Buster’s. “We’ve all been rolling down the river. Sometimes we‘re in the rapids. Sometimes we’re in peaceful stretches.

“The song is about an area that’s about three miles wide there, so it almost looks like a lake. It’s moving very slow and easy, not like it is downtown where it bottlenecks and moves through real fast. Life, to me, is sort of the same way. You can’t brace yourself all the time for the rough parts. Life ain’t always like that, so you have to learn to relax and enjoy the parts that are slower moving – when life is easy, so to speak. To be honest, you need to learn how to relax when it’s going fast, too. The song is just about overcoming fear, I guess, in its own way.”

Grey has been fashioning his distinctive Southern soul and groove music with Mofro since the band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2001. Through the years, his songs and equally expressive vocals have spearheaded blasts of earthy funk, brassy soul and expert R&B balladry. Fans and critics alike have viewed the swampy textures within that music as a style indigenous to North Florida. Grey said the sounds are the results of more cumulative musical inspirations. The region itself, and the day-to-day culture surrounding it, present the most specific influence.

“All this music is from all over. It’s like Stax in Memphis. Not to take anything away from Memphis. I love the place. But it’s not like that music strictly came from Memphis. It came from around the whole region. That was the place where they all went to record. That said, Stax had a distinctive sound. Muscle Shoals had a sound that was Muscle Shoals. For me, the music that got recorded there had roots that spread out all across the South. It’s like the Blues. There is Piedmont blues in the Carolinas that sounds totally different than Hill Country blues in North Mississippi. But it still has a certain connection. I was influenced by all that stuff.

“I think the lyrics have a lot to do with it for me, because the lyrics are about here. I guess the land affects you whether your realize it or not. It’s always affecting you. I don’t try to make it sound like North Florida. I just let the music happen and let whatever my passion is come through it.

“Living here, I’m influenced by this land, and I’m not even talking about music. I’m talking about in every aspect. It’s in the way people talk, it’s the food they eat – the food my mother and grandmother were able to grow in their own back yard.

“Sometimes I tell people that I want to play and sing like I think my grandmother would have if she played and sang.”

JJ Grey and Mofro with Fifth on the Floor perform at  8 p.m. Feb. 9 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester. Tickets are $20 in advance, $23 day of show. Call (859) 368-8871 or go to www.bustersbb.com.

in performance: keb’ mo’

keb mo 2

keb’ mo’

After wrapping up the efficient and elemental groove that propelled his 2006 tune Rita last night at the Opera House, Keb’ Mo’ provided what seemed like an almost involuntary sample of blues-speak. It  sounded little Billy Gibbons via John Lee Hooker, only instead of ‘Haw,  haw, haw,’ what emerged from the mouth of Mo’ was a little more cosmopolitan, something that sounded more like, ‘Habba, habba, habba.’ It was less a blues cry that a celebratory aside. But it was a telling display, nonetheless.

For nearly 2 ½ hours, Mo’ performed songs that referenced the blues but also flirted regularly with folk, soul and assorted points in between. But it wasn’t the stylistic hopscotch that sheltered the show from anything too rustic in the blues department. The casual and congenial attitude Mo’ revealed in abundance set the mood for the evening.

In short, if the singer and guitarist intended the concert as a blues program (and it’s a safe bet he didn’t) then what resulted was the cheeriest blues outing imaginable.

Take, for instance, The Old Me Better, a preview tune from the forthcoming Mo’ album BLUESAmericana. The tune happily pines for the days before a budding romance de-evolved into a marital makeover (“You made me a brand new man, but I like the old me better”). On the other end of the chronological scale was She Just Wants to Dance, a song that reached back to the singer’s self-titled 1994 album. It outlined right in its title all one especially emancipated female desires from a night out.

There were certainly echoes of the blues within the songs. The show opening Every Morning (also from the ’94 album) was the first of many songs Mo’ colored with the wiry slide of steel guitar. But even then, he showed little interest in making the sound too scholarly. In fact, the song boasted Tom Shinness on cello as its only additional accompaniment. Shinness also played bouzouki, electric bass and the double neck harp guitar. “It costs twice as much to check that thing in at the airport,” Mo’ joked, referencing the latter instrument.

Casey Wasner was added on drums for roughly one-third of the lengthy set, culminating in an extended string of songs near the end of the show that turned the trio into an electric combo. But the mood was no more rockish than it was bluesy. In the trio’s hands, the bemoaning Dirty Lowdown and Bad was only modestly more desperate than the show closing self help anthem BetterMan. The mood in each – at least, musically – was all blue sky bliss, minus the blues.

today’s delbert

delbert 1

delbert mcclinton.

In the 40 plus years he has been fronting his own bands and recording his own albums, little in the music of Delbert McClinton has changed. His songs are still steeped in Texas roadhouse tradition by combining elements of vintage R&B, country and no frills rock ‘n’ roll while his singing remains an effortless reflection of goodtime Lone Star soul.

But at age 73, the Lubbock native now living in Nashville doesn’t maintain the sort of brutal tour schedules he juggled in the ‘70s,’80s and’90s. Nor does he feel the rambunctious storylines that dominated his earlier original material best serves his music today.

“I mean, I can’t sing songs about chasing women anymore,” said McClinton, who performs a concert to benefit the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund on Saturday in Frankfort. “I really can’t. That would be ridiculous, you know what I mean? But there’s plenty more to do. We’re old guys that still love to make music, know how to do it and have a good time doing it. As long as that feels good, there ain’t no reason not to keep at it.”

Known best for the Blues Brothers-covered B Movie Box Car Blues in the ‘70s, his own hit Givin’ It Up for Your Love at the dawn of the ‘80s and a series of critically lauded albums that culminated with 2006’s Grammy winning Cost of Living, McClinton offers an insightful look at his role as an elder Americana stylist in a recent tune titled More and More, Less and Less.

“If I don’t throw the party, I won’t have to clean up the mess,” he sings over a subtle, weary shuffle.

“I guess I’ve just been around the block a few times,” McClinton said in reference to the song. But More and More, Less and Less also reflects two key artistic partnerships that have helped establish and extend his career.

The first is a rekindled alliance with Glen Clark, who McClinton recorded and toured with under the duo name Delbert & Glen during the early ‘70s. Though the two have remained friends over the years, they released their first collaborative album in over four decades in 2013. Titled Blind, Crippled and Crazy, the record features More and More, Less and Less as one of its 12 new songs.

“It’s been 42 years since we did anything,” McClinton said. “We’ve talked about doing this off and on for 10 years. Glen was working as a music director for a TV show, According to Jim. He retired from that and had some free time and so did I. We said, ‘Well, let’s make a record.’ It was like getting back on a bicycle.”

More and More, Less and Less also continues a longstanding songwriting partnership McClinton has shared with Gary Nicholson. Continuing that association was one of the reasons McClinton relocated to Nashville in 1989.

“Gary was in my band back in the late ‘80s, so we’ve been friends for a long time. When I moved to Nashville, he had already been living here 10 or 12 years. So we got together and started writing songs. He and I have been having constant luck with that since about ’91.”

But with such a longstanding love of singing and writing, what was the tune the young McClinton heard that made him want to pursue both as his lifelong vocation?

The answer is Honey Hush, the 1953 hit penned and performed by famed Kansas City soul shouter Big Joe Turner.

“There was this barbeque joint out on the highway just across the tracks in Fort Worth,” McClinton recalled. “They had an outside speaker and that’s where I heard Honey Hush. I just started walking toward the music. I had never in my life heard something that had moved me as much as that. I always wanted to be a honker, a shouter like Big Joe Turner. That song still moves me.”

the blues or not the blues

keb' mo'

keb’ mo’

Sometimes the simplest questions become unintentionally but unavoidably difficult to answer.

In the case of Keb’ Mo’, such a query emerged when discussing a new album he is putting the finishing touches on this winter. What was asked was routine: What can audiences expect from his latest recording?

“That’s always the hardest question,” says Mo’ (born Kevin Moore), who returns to Lexington on Thursday for a duo concert with multi-instrumentalist/accompanist Tom Shinness. “What are you in for? I got tunes, man. You know, I got songs. It’s the same thing we’ve been doing. We make a record, we put songs on it. We try to visit life in a way that we haven’t before. We try to remain true and really authentic. There’s some fun stuff and some heartfelt things.”

Mo’ isn’t being evasive or at all curt in the reply. In fact, in conversation he reflects the same upbeat and amiable personality that abounds in his music. But when tags, labels or even basic descriptions get pinned to his songs, things get tricky.

To many audiences, Mo’ is the embodiment of the blues – a new generation roots music voice so emotive and authentic that he portrayed blues legend Robert Johnson in the 1998 documentary Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl.

But Mo’s recordings over the last two decades have  just as readily embraced soul, contemporary folk, pop and, on occasion, country. Such stylistic popularity has been the proverbial double-edged sword. On one hand, he has established a strong crossover fanbase and earned a trio of Grammy Awards. Blues die-hards, however – especially critics – has often viewed Mo’ as a faux bluesman, an artist way too cosmopolitan and commercially driven to be viewed as a roots music ambassador.

“I don’t really pay much attention to all that,” Mo’ said. “I mean, the blues is as good a place as any to hang your hat. It’s a very honorable genre steeped in the history of American and African-American culture. It’s a proud place to be and I have no shame at all about it. But how people want to label you is the thing, and I only have a problem with that when they start saying about my music, ‘Well, that’s not the blues.’

“I don’t get angry with that or anything. It’s just that I know it’s not the blues, because I know what the blues is.”

To appreciate just how far Mo’ purposely strays from the blues, take a look the lengthy and diverse list of artists he has collaborated with throughout his career. It includes Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, Dr. John, Martin Scorsese, Amy Grant, the Dixie Chicks, Jackson Browne, Kermit the Frog and one of his earliest employers, the late West Coast fiddler Papa John Creach. Mo’ also recorded a Shakespearean sonnet for the 2002 compilation album When Love Speaks as well as the theme song (I See Love) to the current CBS-TV comedy series Mike & Molly.

“All these things are in my background,” Mo’ said. “That’s what people really don’t know about me. I spent years listening to country music on the radio. As far as jazz and things like that, I’ve had to play in a lot of jam situations. I took acting lessons back in my 20s and have popped in and out of theatre. All of that has come to fruition in ways where opportunities came from them.

“I played folk and calypso. I’ve played French horn in my high school band. I’ve done a lot of work. So when I became a bluesman, so to speak, that was the time I got noticed. So when people say, ‘Oh, so he’s a blues guy.’ I’m like, ‘OK. Fine. Whatever you say.’ ”

Keb’ Mo’ with Tom Shinness performs at 7:30 p.m. Feb.6 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. Tickets  are $44.50. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000 or go to www.ticketmaster.com,

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