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Hal Ketchum with Johnny Hiland


Wed, Sep 1

Country musician Hal Ketchum has been on the scene since his debut album, “Threadbare Alibis.” He has six top 10 county hits under his belts including “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Past the Point of Rescue” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll,” which all hit No. 2.

Johnny Hiland is a virtuoso guitarist who has recorded with stars like Ricky Skaggs, Toby Keith, Randy Travis, Janie Fricke, and Lynn Anderson.

Sound Observations By Hal Ketchum

By David Moye

Hal Ketchum is known for singing country hits like “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Past the Point of Rescue” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll,” but writing is just as important to him.

Lucky for him, he has an easier time writing in unfamiliar surroundings than other musicians.

“I definitely can write on the road,” he said en route to his September 1 show at Anthology. “There’s plenty of time to work on stuff.”

Ketchum first hit it big in the early 1990s when his album, “Past The Point Of Rescue,” produced four hit singles including the title track and “Small Town Saturday Night.” Since then, he has earned a reputation for performing great country music while keeping touch with the outlaw edge.

“My brother and I started out playing bluegrass,” he said. “That’s the root of the source, but, to me, country music is a beautiful combination of things – just like early rock and roll.”

Ketchum grew up in upstate New York and while the stereotypical country fan lives in the southern or western part of the U.S., he says there’s quite a strong contingent in the northeast part of the country as well.

There really is a broad source of bluegrass in New England and New York,” Ketchum said. “I was exposed to it through my father.”

There have been other influences besides dear old Dad for Ketchum. When it comes to songwriting, he’s influenced by many of the greats like Hank Williams, but some less obvious influences as well.

“I think Bernie Taupin is an absolute genius and I love Hemingway,” Ketchum said. “A songwriting idea can come from all places. For me, I usually get a first line, a situation or an image in my mind.”

As far as songwriting goes, some writers feel that the best songs come the easiest, while others feel it’s no good unless they sweat blood. Ketchum falls in the first camp.

“To me, quick is good,” he said. “I do lean towards those strikes of lightning. I think the easiest song I’ve ever written was called ‘I Miss My Mary,’ about child visitation. I put the coffee on and it fell on the page.”

Ketchum is asked if he thinks the quicker a song is written, the less time the brain has to get in the way and try and clean up the raw emotion.

“Maybe, but this song gets a reaction because it has a strong storyline,” he said.

But to Ketchum, a good song is just a framework for live performance. That’s when he can stretch the songs out to fit the talents of the musicians.

“The key for [the Anthology show] will be Johnny Hiland,” he said. “He is a great guitar player and I’ll have a chance to stretch musically with new players who have a different take on this music.

“Being in the middle will be a great experience.”

“Hal Ketchum [is] one of the most well known and admired songwriters in country music circles” – constancephillips.com

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