It all took off for Keb’ Mo’ twenty-five years ago with the self-titled release under his newly coined Keb’ Mo’ moniker, and over the years, he has proven that he is a musical force that defies typical genre labels. Album after album, 14 in total, Keb’ has garnered 4 GRAMMY awards and a producer/engineer/artist GRAMMY Certificate for his track on the 2001 Country Album of the Year, Hank Williams Tribute – Timeless. He has received 11 GRAMMY nominations, in total, including Country Song of the Year for “I Hope,” co-written with The Dixie Chicks, and three alone for his 2014 self-produced release, BLUESAmericana, including Americana Album of the Year. Keb’ has also been awarded 11 Blues Foundation Awards and 6 BMI Awards for his work in TV & Film.
Over the past two decades, Keb’ has cultivated a reputation as a modern master of American roots music through the understated excellence of his live and studio performances. Artists who have recorded his songs include B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Cocker, Robert Palmer, Tom Jones, Melissa Manchester, Solomon Burke and the Zac Brown Band to name a few. The list of artist collaborations comprises a who’s who in the music industry and includes Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, Lyle Lovett, India Arie, James Cotton, Bobby Rush, Timothy B. Schmit, Marcus Miller and many more. His guitar playing has garnered him two invites to Eric Clapton’s acclaimed Crossroads Festival and has inspired leading instrument makers, Gibson Brands, to issue the Keb’ Mo’ Signature Bluesmaster and Bluesmaster Royale acoustic guitars and Martin Guitars to issue the HD-28KM Keb’ Mo’ Limited Edition Signature model.
He has been featured in TV and film, playing Robert Johnson in the 1998 documentary “Can’t You Hear The Wind Howl,” appeared three times on the television series, “Touched By An Angel,” and was the ghostly bluesman Possum in John Sayles’ 2007 movie, “Honeydripper.” Keb’ created “Martha’s Theme” for the TV show Martha Stewart Living. Keb’ also wrote and performed the theme song for the hit sitcom, Mike & Molly, created by Chuck Lorre and was music composer for TNT’s Memphis Beat starring Jason Lee. In early 2017, nine songs from Keb’s extensive catalog were featured in the film Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. This film was also Keb’s first feature film lead acting role. He also appears in an episode on the CMT series “Sun Records” as Howlin’ Wolf and can be heard playing his original song “Operator.” Keb’ has played his iconic version of “America The Beautiful” in the series finale of Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing,” as well as at the actual White House for President Obama.
Keb’ Mo’ has been a long-time supporter of the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF), a nonprofit organization that creates positive change through music education. PFCF provides free music education to children in nine countries, including Brazil, Bangladesh, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa and the United States, and has established 12 music schools around the world. They also work with partners to address basic needs in the communities where they teach, including providing education, clean water, food, medicines, clothing, books, and school supplies.
Additionally, Keb’ is a celebrity mentor with the Kennedy Center’s Turnaround Arts program, which focuses on elementary and middle schools throughout the US. This highly successful program began under the guidance of Michelle Obama and the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities. Each artist adopts a school and becomes a mentor, working with teachers, students, parents, and the community to help build a successful arts education program. Keb’ enjoys his mentorship at The Johnson School of Excellence in Chicago, Illinois.
In 2017, Keb’ Mo’ released TajMo, a collaborative album with the legendary Taj Mahal. The multi-generational duo went on to tour the US and Europe in support of their album; which has since earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Martin Harley is a supremely talented Roots and Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter with a burgeoning global reputation. He’s a devotee to the music that came out of the Mississippi Delta, the slide guitar, and many other forms of roots music. Though Harley’s sound is rooted in the blues it seeks to tell his own story and draws on the ruminations of a musician who has spent much of his life on the road.
Renowned for his prowess as a slide guitarist, Martin Harley is almost unique in the UK in his playing lap slide. During year-round worldwide touring he’s absorbed a plethora of diverse influences, honing his craft into the classic songwriting style he possesses today. In the US, Martin has headlined Music City Roots in Nashville and toured coast to coast with ZZ Ward, Delta Rae and opened for Iron and Wine, Bruce Hornsby, Five for Fighting, World Party, Beth Hart, Joe Bonamassa amongst many others.
Now in its fifth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to the south west in a summer celebration of roots and Americana music. With a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, 2019’s series is packed full of performances from global icons and rising stars.
In 2019 the River Town series takes place at venues across Bristol including St George’s
Bristol, The O2 Academy, SWX, The Winston Theatre at Bristol University SU and The Crofters Rights,
and also makes its first foray into Bath with two performances at The Forum. With artists including k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’ and Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, it’s the most ambitious programme yet.
River Town began in 2015 under the banner of Bristol Americana Weekend and under a co-producing partnership between Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol presented Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Larkin Poe, Police Dog Hogan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and many more outstanding artists of American roots music.
The festival returned after wide-spread acclaim in 2016 to feature Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now internationally famous The White Buffalo.
In 2017 we launched the festival for a third year under the new name of River Town and showcased some of the finest blues, gospel, country and bluegrass, from across the pond and closer to home in Colston Hall, St George’s Bristol and for the first time in O2 Academy. Three UK greats – Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather Low – joined forces in a rare trio performance that celebrated their shared love of American R&B, soul and country. The compelling singer songwriter Martha Wainwright performed along with R&B powerhouse, gospel legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples. Plus performances by duo The Shires with crossover stars Ward Thomas brought country-pop to Bristol.
In 2018 the festival expanded across the city as part of our Colston Hall Presents programme, showcasing events taking place in venues across Bristol during the Hall’s Transformation project. In it’s fourth iteration River Town’s line-up featured music icons Graham Nash and Rosanne Cash alongside The Barr Brothers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The White Buffalo.