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Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011

Keb' Mo'

The Reflection (Yolabelle International)

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With each successive album Keb' Mo' has moved further from his province as a Robert Johnson-covering, National steel-guitar-toting, Compton-bred bluesman toward a new home in cushy, cashy James Taylor territory.

With The Reflection, consider the relocation complete. Weird synthesizer action, cheesy rubbery bass, a slew of slick backing vocals, soft horns and some wakka-chikka porn-funk guitar meld together for a tasteless stew of tepid adult pop. Look no further than his cover of Don Henley's yacht-rock anthem “One of These Nights” for a signifier of just how far the songwriter has strayed from the crossroads.

“Crush On You” yields a substantially irresistible hook (try as you might while riding the elevator), as does the passably soulful “All the Way.” And, sure, Mo' can still croon and pick, but under all those production layers and the ceaseless positivity (“We Don't Need It” actually chronicles familial love triumphing over current economic hardships), you'd be hard-pressed to tell.

By the end, Reflection shows a man sounding more and more like one with his actual given name, Kevin Moore. In live shows, at least, Keb' can still be counted on to grind out "Am I Wrong."

Keb' Mo' performs Oct. 5 at the Pabst Theater.
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