Hal Ketchum at Claremont’s Historic Opera House 10/1/2006

hal_ketchum_small.jpgIt’s always a sheer delight to hear this man. Every note he sings is full of warmth and heart.”
Robert K. Oermann, Music Row


Nashville legend and Grand Ole Opry member Hal Ketchum returns for what promises to be a rousing evening of music October 1 at the Claremont Opera House. Ketchum’s blend of gritty country and good-hearted soulful rock propelled songs like “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Hearts are Gonna Roll” and this year’s “Just This Side of Heaven” to chart-topping heights.

Ketchum was born and raised in New York, his family steeped in musical traditions. “Everybody played – my brother and I had a bluegrass band when I was 14 or 15, my brother played banjo, my father played slide guitar and my mother played Hawaiian steel, of all things. My grandfather … was a fiddle player.”

He traveled south to Texas early in his career, soon finding himself swapping songs at Austin’s famous Gruene Hall with the likes of Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.

Later he went to Nashville. “It seemed like absolutely the place to be for a songwriter,” he said. “It’s a great town for the written word, they really love songs and songwriters.”

Roy Acuff introduced him at the Grand Ole Opry in 1990; Ketchum became a member in 1994. “I love playing there,” he says. “It’s an institution, the Mother Church. The backstage environment is brilliant, it’s amazing to walk among legends … men and women who’ve been plying their craft for 50-60 years.”

As his star rose at the Opry, Ketchum released a string of hits, beginning with his version of Irish legend Mick Hanly’s “Past the Point of Rescue.” “The root of country music is basically Celtic,” he told Rattlebag Radio in 2002.

His unique mélange of styles produces music that’s appealing to country purists, Americana lovers and fans of hard-driving rock and roll. The rootsy “Awaiting Redemption” became an immediate critic’s favorite upon its release in 1999, with honest, rugged musical textures matched perfectly to Ketchum’s reedy tenor. The Rodney Crowell-produced “Lucky Man” was a back to basics affair that produced the hit “She Is” and featured a duet with Dolly Parton.

His latest record, “Just This Side of Heaven,” is a harmony-rich rocker that sits just as comfortably with Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen as Nashville hitmakers like Keith Urban and Brooks & Dunn. But the sound is all Hal Ketchum – a sound that’s sure to captivate an Opera House crowd eagerly anticipating this encore performance.

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