Like musical variety? Just ask for (Keb') Mo'

Like musical variety? Just ask for (Keb') Mo'

CHAMPAIGN — Keb' Mo' is an artist of many musical styles, but more blues than country, even though he lives in Nashville.

"I live in Nashville because it's too cold in Chicago," says the four-time Grammy Award winner.

Still, country is a part of his wide-ranging talents. He was nominated for Country Song of the Year for "I Hope," co-written with The Dixie Chicks,

He'll be on stage at the Virginia Theatre in a joint performance with Taj Mahal tonight.

Mahal partnered up with Mo' on the album "TajMo" last year, with covers from such unlikely sources as John Mayer and The Who.

Both musicians fuse blues with world music, including that of the Caribbean, Africa and the South Pacific. (Mahal's first guitar teacher was Lynwood Perry, nephew of the famous bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Mahal also sang doo-wop in high school, while Mo' cut his teeth on calypso.)

Mo's first recorded rock with Jefferson Airplane, then with violinist Papa John Creach (also a Jefferson Starship sideman) in an R&B group.

He played blues in a band fronted by Bobby "Blue" Bland producer Monk Higgins, and jammed with blues legends Albert Collins and Big Joe Turner.

For a change of pace, he also performed with Kermit The Frog. He even acted on TV's "Touched By an Angel."

With parents from Louisiana and Texas, he was steeped in Delta blues and gospel music.

How do he become a master of many trades?

Mo' describes his influences growing up as "whatever was on the radio, Latin jazz, calypso."

"The circumstances of my life, I always had music put in front of me from my parents. Then in fifth grade, I played the trumpet. But I didn't play that much back then," he said.

"I was kicked out of band in fifth grade because of my grades. Playing music was a privilege. But it was part of the bigger plan, it took me to where I am now," Mo' said

It became an important change in direction.

"My uncle taught me how to play guitar; he was more like a folk player, calypso, classical, blues; he played all the time. He was a probation officer and played gigs at night," he said.

Mo' developed his own multifarious style playing in a calypso band in his teen years, being part of orchestra and taking different classes in jazz. "The '60s, '70s, '80s, I paid attention to all of it," he said.

And he became a huge Taj Mahal fan, but added that the recording and tour are probably a one-time thing.

If you go

Who: TajMo: The Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' Band.

Where: Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave., C.

When: 8 p.m. tonight.

Tickets: $45 to $125.

More information: 217-356-9063 or