Review: Keb Mo Prefers His Sunny Side Up

Keb Mo/Good To Be/Rounder
4.5 out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Few artists invest as much soul and passion into their art as Keb Mo. Although his basis may be the blues, his music incorporates folk, soul, country, and R&B in a way that eludes easy categorization, but still comes across as effortlessly engaging while imbuing consistent good vibes and an ease brought about through infectious enthusiasm.

That’s never been more evident than on the aptly dubbed Good To Be, an album that consistently exudes optimism even in the face of the overwhelming odds everyone’s been forced to contend with during an era of a problematic pandemic, debilitating disasters, and polarizing politics. “The Medicine Man,” a song that features an assist from Old Crow Medicine Show shares the scenario succinctly:

Well it looks to me like the end is comin’
My feet hurt and my nose is runnin’
Friends and neighbors are dropping like flies
You better cover your face, sanitize

You better lock your doors, turn on the news
The whole damn world is singin’ the blues
The President lost, but he don’t want to go
Mother Earth, she needs a little help you know

Everybody’s doin’ the best that they ca
We’re all just waitin’ on the Medicine Man

Granted, that’s a bit of a pessimistic premise, but Mr. Mo quickly compensates via some sunny sentiments, as found in such songs as “Good to Be (Home Again),” “So Easy,” “Sunny and Warm,” and “So Good To Me” in particular. The lithe arrangements and breezy delivery allow for a generally merry mood throughout, with any number of songs affirming his positive perspective. The themes vary, but hew to mostly uplifting intents, be it friendship (a faithful remake of Bill Wither’s superb standby “Lean On Me”), closeness and commitment (a soothing “So Good To Me”), joy (the cheery “’62 Chevy”), and emotional intimacy (the touching and tender “Quiet Moments”). Not that he avoids touchier topics as well—be it the need to speak out as necessary (“Louder”) and to stay the course even when the odds seemed stacked against us (“Marvelous To Me”)—but the overriding sense of hope and happiness never seems to stray beyond reach.

In effect, Good To Be is an album that’s sorely needed in these turbulent times when divisions and despair are clearly so predominant. In that regard, consider Good To Be a most worthy mantra to maintain. 

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