Awaiting Redemption

Article excerpt

Hal Ketchum Awaiting Redemption Curb / EMI

In the early '90s, it seemed that Hal Ketchum had it all. He had translated is ruggedly handsome appearance, rich voice, and knack for hook-fined country pop into seven top 10 hits in the first half of the decade.

However, things were crashing down for Ketchum as a man. He became addicted to the deadly duo of alcohol and heroin. To his credit, he emerged clean from the Betty Ford Clinic in January of 1998, and has been straight and sober ever since. The next month he remarried, but before the summer he was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord disorder that caused his arms to become temporarily paralyzed, and his recovery has been slow.

His career took a parallel dip. In 1998, record producers tried to rework Ketchum into a country lite / adult contemporary artist. They rejected the material that he offered for release, and sent him back to the drawing board. The result was his most insipid album ever in I Saw The Light.

Ketchum's persistence and his willingness to try a commercial gamble were, however, rewarded by his record label. They freed him up to release the album of his choice in 1999. The result, Awaiting Redemption, is his rawest and most vital effort since his 1989 debut Threadbare Alibis.

Ketchum always could write well, but that skill had been honed for years towards hit production. This time around, it is a triumphant blend of folk, blues, and rock in the country framework. The hooks are still there, and the vocals are still perfectly rich, but everything is genuine rather than affected. …