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Comfortable and inviting, blues musician Keb' Mo' tells it like it is.

Mo' Better Blues

Constantly interacting with the crowd, blues guitarist/songwriter Keb' Mo' set everyone at ease while he told tales of hard times, lost loves and big-legged women at University of Richmond's Modlin Center for the Arts last Wednesday night.

The Los Angeles-based artist, whose stage name is a variation of Kevin Moore, his real name, pulled the capacity audience into his Delta blues from the first note and kept them clapping their hands and tapping their feet throughout the two-hour show.

Since his debut album in 1994, Moore has been praised for his straightforward and flawless approach to blues-inspired music; among other accolades, he's won two Grammys for blues. But at the Modlin Center he wasn't afraid to add a bit of folk lyricism, R&B and soul to his songs, transforming even the most novice blues listener into a fan, and a vocal one at that.

As the show progressed, Moore worked a variety of guitars and playing styles into his act. Most notable was his musicianship on the steel guitar, which took listeners back to the days of old roadhouses and whiskey stills located far south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The intimate setting of the theater gave everyone a first-rate view along with the exceptional acoustics of the room, which picked up on every shriek and pop of the guitar strings.

Moore seemed to have fun mocking himself throughout the night. On one occasion he wondered aloud why an institution of higher learning would ever let someone like him play in its hallowed halls. Nevertheless, he taught the crowd a thing or two about his own "education" while he conveyed his musical message.

Highlights from the show included "Perpetual Blues Machine," a song about having to let a woman go despite strong feelings for her. A request from the front row for "City Boy" was also a nice addition. He even paid homage to blues icon Robert Johnson with a stunning rendition of "Come On In My Kitchen" that included a verse from the Elmore James classic "It Hurts Me Too."

The most memorable moment occurred when Moore invited some members of the audience onstage to help him finish singing "Hand It Over." His willingness to share the spotlight and his casual stage manner made him feel like an old friend playing in your living room.

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