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Hal Ketchum
 
Sometimes imports are the way to go. Hal Ketchum would certainly agree with that.

Ketchum, a country music chart-topper, moved to Chicago from Texas in 1999. But don't be fooled by the sudden change in geography. Ketchum is not a visitor. He's quickly slipping on a native skin, playing various Chicago venues and hosting Troubadours, a weekly one hour music and interview program recorded in Chicago focusing on influential contemporary musicians.

Ketchum found himself in the Midwest around the same time as the release of his seventh album, Awaiting Redemption. Nearly released two years prior under the possibly more catchy but not so tasteful title Hal Yes, Awaiting Redemption marks a departure for Ketchum. It's more pensive and raw, darker in the way that you imagine someone awaiting redemption would be.

Mojo Magazine describes the album as "a long way removed from the folk-tinged troubadour material that is Ketchum's usual stock in trade and one that edges into territory usually occupied by Eric Clapton at his most tortured or the swamp blues end of Steve Winwood's work."

The sound is one that Ketchum achieved with much practice. His career in music began as a Steppenwolf-influenced drummer during his formative years. A move to Austin in 1979 proved more than a geographical change. The dance hall behind Ketchum's home was a hotbed for acts like Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Ketchum "fell in with those people," whose influence is apparent in his own tunes. Ketchum's move to Nashville in the mid-80s was followed by the release of his debut album, Threadbare Alibi, a collection of 12 songs which happen to be the first 12 he wrote. What followed was a slew of albums, concerts and Top 20 hits. Awaiting Redemption is Ketchum's seventh album.

KATE SCHWARTZ

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