Americana Roots: Origin

Genre and Style Guitar Course from Keb' Mo'

Hello, I’m Keb' Mo' — Welcome to the "Origin" Edition of Americana Roots! I’m excited to have this opportunity to pass on to you what I’ve learned myself over the many years that I’ve been playing guitar, songwriting, recording, and performing on stage. I’m using my songs as the framework for the entire series — it's the best way to give you a true feel for my guitar playing, songwriting, and creative process. Each edition focuses on a key stage of my development as an artist. For this edition, we're going to explore 10 songs from my first two records, Keb' Mo' and Just Like You. I'll perform each song, show you how to play them, and share the songwriting approaches I used when creating them. And with the interactive tools provided, you'll be able to practice and play along with me. So, grab your guitar and join me on this musical journey!

16 Lessons

Complete course with step-by-step lessons and practice examples.


Course filmed with 6 cameras for the perfect angles.

Guitar Pro

All tabs and notation provided in PDF and Guitar Pro formats.

Tabs & Info

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Full Course Breakdown


Introduction to Americana Roots: Origin

Keb introduces us to to Americana Roots: Origin

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Early Influences & Inspiration

So, my earliest influence in music was actually my Uncle Herman. He's a family member who played guitar and got me started. But after that, I was a bit lost because I only knew a few chords and didn't really have any other influences.<br></br>Luckily, I was introduced to this amazing guitarist named David T. Walker. He was a session guitar player with a few albums of his own and he's still playing today. He's actually quite famous in the world of session guitar playing.<br></br>Meeting David was a turning point for me and really started me on my journey in music.

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Am I Wrong

"Am I Wrong" is a song that was inspired by Mississippi Fred McDowell's slide guitar playing in the Delta Blues genre. The song is a stomping and hollering type of song with a simple one-line melody and no chords, except for a few two-note chords.<br></br>The song is played in the key of open G, but with a capo on the second fret, which puts it in the key of A. The song is built on a system of minor thirds and major seconds, which creates the driving rhythm of the song.<br></br>There are a few tricks that can be added to the song, such as the Robert Johnson lick, which is often heard in blues music. Additionally, using the C position can create a seventh chord that adds a bit of variation to the song.<br></br>The key to playing "Am I Wrong" is to go slow and focus on the system of the song, experimenting with all the notes and options available. Ultimately, it's about learning the system and making it your own, rather than trying to replicate exactly what the original artist played.

12:13 Runtime

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Maximize What You Know About Chords

So, chords are like the building blocks of music theory. They're essential for understanding scales, keys, and how to use different chords in your playing. One of the first chords you learn on the guitar is the G chord, which is a really important one. When you're first learning it, you typically play it like this...

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The song Angelina was actually inspired by this great country blues vibe I got from listening to Big Bill Broonzy. So, I want to play a little bit of Angelina for you and demonstrate how everything comes together. This includes the cheap chords, the expensive chords, as well as the timing and pitch.<br></br>Just a heads up, my voice might not be perfect because I like to keep things real and sometimes I go back and redo things. So, what you're about to hear is raw and unedited.

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Dangerous Mood

So, I want to talk about my next song, Dangerous Mood. I actually co-wrote this one with a woman named Candy Parton back in the 90s for my second album. The vibe we were going for with this song was a really classic, old-school Nightclub Blues feel. We wanted to create something that would appeal to grown folks and capture that timeless blues sound.

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Every Morning

So, I want to talk about my song Every Morning. This was actually the first song I wrote after taking a break from songwriting for a few years. I honestly can't remember exactly how long it had been, maybe two years or so. During that time, I was just playing clubs and doing covers. <br></br>But eventually, I realized it was time to start writing my own music again. Every Morning was the beginning of a whole new set of songs that became a part of the Keb' Mo' catalog, as opposed to Kevin Moore.

17:31 Runtime

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Perpetual Blues Machine

Let me share a song with you called "Perpetual Blues Machine." Now, you might be wondering what a perpetual blues machine is. To me, it's a situation that keeps giving us the blues day in and day out. The title actually came to me when I was at a pizza parlor for my kid's game, surrounded by pizza and games and moms, and I thought to myself, "This is nothing but a perpetual blues machine."<br></br>The song itself was actually written for a woman to sing, but I ended up singing it on a record. The lyrics are from a male perspective, about being on someone's arm and feeling a bit pissed off about it. When I perform this song, I try to tap into some feminine energy to really capture the essence of the lyrics.<br></br>The song starts off with an D chord and goes to an A chord. Here's how it goes...

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Victims of Comfort

This song is actually one of the last in the batch of songs that I threw away to make room for my alter ego, Kevin Moe. At the time, it meant very little in comparison to the new set of songs I was working on. However, as time went on, the song started to hold more meaning.<br></br>Originally, it wasn't meant to be acoustic in nature. I had done a big arrangement with drums, toms, and guitars during the Peter Gabriel/Phil Collins era. I even had a friend with a beautiful high voice sing it, but somehow that version didn't capture the urgency of the song. It was more technology upon technology, which wasn't what the song needed.<br></br>Eventually, a minimalist approach seemed to be better suited for it, and it became a meaningful addition to my catalog.

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Hand it Over

The next song I want to share is called "Handed Over." As a musician living in a world of uncertainty, handing things over can be a big deal. People often talk about luck, but it's really about being prepared for opportunities when they arise. The thing is, you never know when those opportunities will come.<br></br>This song is about creating your own destiny and surrendering to something greater than yourself - the universal brain. It's not a religious song per se, but more about surrendering to life itself. So without further ado, here's "Handed Over."

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Les Paul Guitar Talk

This guitar here is a version of a Gibson Les Paul. I have heavy thirteen gauge strings on it so that when I tune it down to D, it still has enough tension to play. I also have humbuckers on it, so I can do the slide and get a good vibe on each pickup. It's important for a two-pickup guitar to have this option because I can pull the tone back and get my desired sound. This is the Epiphone version of the Les Paul, which is more affordable than the Gibson version. Although there is a slight difference in quality, it's all about how you play it.

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Standing at the Station

Alright, I'd like to share a song with you called "Standing at the Station," which happens to be one of my favorites. I play it in a tuning called D minor seven, which is DADFDAC. What I love about this song is that it tells a story about a guy who's been left behind and has to carry his lover's bags to the train. He's pitifully standing there, not wanting her to leave, but she's already gone. Let me play it for you now.

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You Can Love Yourself

I'd like to share a song with you called "Love Yourself," and I have a little backstory on this one. I was on the north shore of the island of Oahu in Hawaii, just hanging out on the beach with my guitar when I came up with the initial melody. Originally, the song had different lyrics, but when I got to the studio, I realized they weren't quite right and I ended up rewriting them.<br></br>The message of the song is about the importance of loving oneself, and the lyrics came easily to me because I was writing from personal feelings. I even borrowed a line from a BB King song, "Nobody Loved Me But My Mother," and put a little snippet of it in my own lyrics. I like to include elements of traditional blues in my songs, even if they're not bluesy themselves, as a way of connecting them to the roots of the genre. So here it is, "Love Yourself."

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Playing Slide Guitar

If you haven't tried playing slide guitar before, it's not that difficult. First, instead of putting your finger behind the fret like you normally do, you place the slide right over the fret. But you don't press down, you just let it rest there. This is what creates the pitch.<br></br>Playing slide does take some practice though. You have to slide your slide smoothly over the strings and find the sweet spot where it rings out cleanly. If you hear some strange noises, then you're probably not pressing down quite right, but keep practicing and you'll find the right touch. And if you listen carefully, your guitar might just start telling you how great you are too!

10:09 Runtime

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More Than One Way Home

This song was written for my second album called Just Like You. The song is called More Than One Way Home, and I wrote it with my buddy John Parker, who I've been tight with for years. He knows me from back in the Compton days and when we played on the road with Papa John Creach.<br></br>So we were talking, and he suggested that I write something about Compton. I already had two songs about Compton in my repertoire, one about coming back to the town and the other about memories of the town. This one was more about memories, painting a picture of what it was like.<br></br>The chords are bittersweet, with a mix of negative and positive memories. Danny came around every once in a while, but Mama was there all the time. Summertime was different from TV shows like Leave It to Beaver. We were right where we needed to be.<br></br>Life was perfect. The Thurman Boys on Peach Street and my friends across the street. I still know them, but only their dad. Ms. Brooks and her bible and her three little boys. Ms. Brooks was a very religious church-going woman, and we went to the Double Rock Baptist Church to hear her joyful noise. And then there's More Than One Way Home. No matter what road you might be on, you'll find your way home.<br></br>It's a story song, and the words match the lyrics.

24:52 Runtime

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Course Wrap-up

Hey everyone, I just wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for joining me on this journey and letting me share my tools with you. I like to call them tools - they're things I use to express myself and create, you know? And it means a lot that you appreciate them too. If you want to know more about me, Keb' Mo', you can check out or just look for me anywhere - maybe even in your local supermarket. Who knows? I might be playing on the radio while you're grabbing some snacks.<br></br>But seriously, thank you for going on this journey with me. I hope something I shared has helped you on your own musical journey, and I encourage you to keep at it. Music is a beautiful thing, and it can bring so much joy to your life. So let's make it a part of our lives, yeah? Again, I'm Keb' Mo', and thanks again for being here.

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  • Nashville, TN
  • Playing since 1970
  • 221 lessons at JamPlay