Track of the Week: “Suitcase,” by Keb’ Mo’

Track of the WeekThis is one of those tracks that puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. The lyrics are fantastic and the performances by each member of the band is spot on. Even the recording itself is so polished. It’s odd to use the word polished to describe a gritty genre like the blues, but there’s no other word. This is a finely-crafted smile machine. Plain and simple.

One aspect of the song that may go unnoticed, at least on a conscious level, is Keb’ Mo’s clever use of bad timing. At the very beginning of the song, his guitar and the bass is played out of time with the hi-hat, which is holding the beat of the song. When the band kicks in, the timing starts to improve. By the second chorus, the timing is spot on. At that point there is a sensation of rightness that sets in. That sense of rightness is what many songwriters go for. The musical term is for rightness is resolve.

Before we can make something right it has to be wrong. What Keb’ Mo’ did is deliberately play slightly wrong to unsettle your listening experience. He’s setting you up, see, to be comforted later by the resolution. He resolves the bad timing by bringing in the band and making it right.

This is song illustrates the importance of knowing the rules and when to break them. Wanna make your listener extra happy? Make ’em sad first, then resolve it with nice musical present.

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