LIVE: Hal Ketchum @ The Egg, 5/7/15
Review by Greg Haymes
The big music buzz around the Capital Region for the past couple of weeks has been about Sawyer Fredericks, the 16-year-old farmboy from Fultonville who has made quite a name for himself in the NBC-TV singing competition, “The Voice.” And rightfully so…
But of course, Fredericks isn’t the only small-town success story that the Local 518 has spawned over the years, and the night after Fredericks played to a jam-packed crowd at the Palace Theatre, Hal Ketchum – born and raised in Greenwich (Washington County) – took the stage at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre for a long-overdue homecoming concert of his own.
Long-overdue because the silver-haired, 62-year-old Ketchum was forced to cancel his two most recent concerts scheduled for The Egg – in 2009 and 2010 – while he battled Multiple Sclerosis. But he made made it to The Egg this time around night in support of his new album, I’m the Troubadour (his first album in six years), looking and sounding none the worse for wear throughout his 16-song set.
Ketchum is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He’s sold more than five million albums. And he’s racked up a half-dozen Top 10 country hit singles. But to peg him simply as a country singer is selling his considerable songwriting talent short. Accompanied by the exceptionally versatile guitarist Kenny Grimes, Ketchum offered a casual, homespun, sit-down show, veering from soul (“I Know Where Love Lives”) to jazz-pop (“Stay Forever,” co-written with Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers) to rock (“Drive On”) to folk (the captivating story song “I Miss My Mary,” co-written with Al Anderson, formerly of NRBQ) to the chugging rockabilly twang of his biggest hit, “Small Town Saturday Night.”
He tossed in a sweet little finger-snappin’ children’s song, “Chickadee,” in the fashion of vintage Tin Pan Alley pop, underscoring his knack for taking simple everyday topics and transforming them into universal truths. And he uncorked a wickedly ribald novelty song, “The Continental Farewell,” which he proudly introduced early on in his show as “the song that got me out of my contract with Curb Records,” with whom he scored his biggest hits but a considerably lesser degree of satisfaction as an artist.
Amiably chatting with the near-capacity crowd of family members, old friends, classmates and fans, Ketchum proved to be an all-around entertainer, offering plenty of humorous tales and jokes between his personal love songs (“I Shall Remain”) and socially conscious ballads about armed forces veterans (“The Saddle”) and Native Americans (the encore of “Trail of Tears”).
Yes, it’s been 20 years since Ketchum scored a Top 10 hit, but his songcraft is sharper now than ever, honed to the razor-sharp edge where the personal becomes all-embracing.
Pete Mason’s review at NYS Music
An excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “They opened with ‘Past the Point of Rescue,’ the hit and title track from Ketchum’s 1991 record, saying, ‘I think it’s the most beautiful song I ever heard.’ He followed with a silly song that he called ‘distasteful,’ and joked that it was the song that got him released from his long-time record company Curb records. ‘Their definition of ethics was that they stabbed you in the front.’ He then sang ‘I Know Where Love Lives,’ which he wrote for Barbara, his first wife, whom he says he gets along with and shares five grandchildren. It’s a nice, fast moving song with a Lyle Lovett feel. ‘Awaiting Redemption,’ which he made for a movie that only used eight seconds of the song, was a blues-rock tune that Grimes used for a slick solo.”
HAL KETCHUM SET LIST
Past the Point of Rescue
The Continental Farewell
I Know Where Love Lives
I Miss My Mary
Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues (Danny O’Keefe)
Hearts Are Gonna Roll
I Shall Remain
Mama Knows the Highway
I’m the Troubadour
Small Town Saturday Night
Trail of Tears