Grammy-winning blues artist Keb' Mo' is taking a month off from touring, but he'll hit the road again in January for 14 more dates in support of his latest album, The Door.
When he's not recording or on the road, Keb' Mo' (born Kevin Moore) said he's constantly taking mental notes for future songs.
"I talk to people, I keep my eyes open and pay attention to everything that's going on around me, politics, whatever," he said. "I kind of log it in my memory. When I start to write, the things that have made an impression on me tend to reveal themselves."
The Door, which is #4 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart, continues Keb' Mo's tradition of mixing traditional blues with soul, funk and jazz, an approach that won him a Contemporary Blues Album Grammy in 1997 for Just Like You and again in 1999 for Slow Down.
"The core of blues, country, gospel and folk music is at the root of rock, R&B and jazz," he said. "At this point, it's pretty easy to mix them all together. They're all naturally tied together anyway."
The album's title cut (RealAudio excerpt) is a modern Delta blues, but its lyrics are straight gospel: "I heard somebody callin' my name/ Sayin' ain't no need to be shamed/ I found out that the door is always open."
"That's a gospel song, without saying anything about the gospel overtly," Keb' Mo' said. "Blues and gospel are two sides of the same coin. Gospel is heads, and blues is tail, I guess."
The album, which came out October 10 and is Keb' Mo's fifth, also includes something of a blues rarity politically charged songs like "Stand Up (And Be Strong)" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Change." Most blues stays away from explicit politics, Keb' Mo' said.
"There are some great political blues," he said. "But for the most part, blues is close to home. It's [about] working, people dealing with each other and having or not having."
Coming off of two months on the road, Keb' Mo' said he's seeing more diversity in his audiences. But he doesn't really worry about the small number of black faces in blues crowds, something often bemoaned by white blues critics.
"People always say, 'This is your music, this is your history.' But black history is alive in the church. It happens every week. Congregations still sing old spirituals and field hollers."
"Besides," he said, "they just call the blues hip-hop now."
Keb' Mo' tour dates:
1/5 - Greenville, SC @ Peace Center
1/6 - Knoxville, TN @ Tennessee Theatre
1/7 - Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
1/9 - Atlanta, GA @ House of Blues
1/11 - Jacksonville, FL @ Florida Theatre
1/12 - Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
1/13 - Tampa, FL @ Tampa Theatre
1/14 - West Palm Beach, FL @ Carefree Theatre
1/16 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
1/17 - Austin, TX @ La Zona Rosa
1/18 - Fort Worth, TX @ Caravan of Dreams
1/20 - Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium
1/24 - Portland, OR @ Arlene Schnitzer Hall
1/25 - Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theatre