Five-time Grammy Award winner Keb’ Mo’ comes to Beaver Creek Thursday

Keb' Mo’ started recording in the early 1970s with Jefferson Airplane’s violinist Papa John Creach.
Jeremy Cowart/Courtesy photo
If you go…
  • What: Keb’ Mo’ with opener Scott Mulvahill
  • When: 7 p.m. on Sept. 7
  • Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
  • Tickets: Start at $88
  • More info:

Legendary musicians continue to redefine how incredibly people in their ’70s and ’80s can rock, rhythm and roll, and Keb’ Mo’ is no exception. The five-time Grammy-Award-winning blues artist turns 72 Oct. 3, but as he said, “I’m still breathing and I’m still hungry. I’m still out there going for it every day.” Thursday, he brings his soulful guitar playing and singing to the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Mo’ started recording in the early 1970s with Jefferson Airplane’s violinist Papa John Creach, who hired him when he was 21 and exposed him to all kinds of music. He developed his great talent a bit behind the scenes, yet established himself as a respected guitarist, songwriter and arranger who merged traditional Delta blues with modern music making. After jamming with, and learning from, blues legends like Albert Collins and Big Joe Turner, he became a legit guardian of the blues, while still infusing it with his own signature sound, which often bends genres.

Born as Kevin Moore, Keb’ Mo’ announced his new moniker to the world in 1994 with his self-titled debut, and two years later, he won his first Grammy for best contemporary blues album with “Just Like You.”

Keb’ Mo’ plays the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek Thursday.
Vail Daily archive

From there, his career skyrocketed. He topped the Billboard Blues chart seven times, won four more Grammys and was nominated for seven others, performed in the biggest venues, including Carnegie Hall and The White House and collaborated with top musicians. He even released signature guitars with both Gibson and Martin and composed music for television series like “Mike and Molly,” “Memphis Beat” and “B Positive.” In 2021, he earned the American Music Association’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Performance. Oh, and he acted in a variety of movies and television shows, from “The West Wing” to portraying Robert Johnson in the 1998 documentary, “Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl, Howlin’ Wolf,” as well as depicting the ghostly bluesman Possum in John Sayles’ 2007 film “Honeydripper.”

Keb’ Mo’ poses in the press room with the award for best Americana album for “Oklahoma” at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards.
Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Last year, he released “Good To Be,” which, like the title, revolves around goodness, or gratitude, he said. He recorded most of the album in his childhood home in Compton, Calif., which held nostalgic and loving memories that listeners pick up in the songs.

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The album also features co-producer Vince Gill, Darius Rucker’s vocals and pedal steel and Old Crow Medicine Show’s banjo, fiddle and harmonica  — along with some pandemic humor. While Mo’ wrote most of the songs in the last few years, he revisits “Quiet Moments,” which he wrote in the 1970s and now features Kristin Chenoweth, as well as a rendition of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”

These days, he’s far from slowing down. His goal includes making three albums a year, in addition to delivering his profound music live, throughout the nation.

Keb’ Mo’ sings the blues to a sold-out Vilar Performing Arts Center crowd in 2016.
Zach Mahone/Vail Daily archive

The opening act

Scott Mulvahill opens for Keb’ Mo’ Thursday night. As a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and world-renowned upright bassist, he has made his mark in the overlapping genres of Americana, bluegrass, folk, jazz, rock and roots.

Early in his career, he toured internationally, lending his bottom-heavy beat to Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder. Under Bruce Hornsby’s guidance, his songwriting evolved into a blend of his chops as an upright bassist with melodies and compelling narratives that hook listeners.

His solo, song-driven debut, “Himalayas,” showcases complex fingerwork and innovative progressions.

“As important as the bass is to the sound of my music, it’s not a crutch,” he said. “To me, the songwriting, the voice and the message are what really matter. ‘Himalayas’ is based upon this idea that there’s more to your life than your current challenge — that any setback is surmountable. There’s a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality to these songs.”

“Himalayas” melds both his singer-songwriter talent and his bass playing with his swooning and surprising songs.

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