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Hal Ketchum

Lucky Man – 2001 (Curb)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Hal Ketchum

Hal Ketchum's latest album may have been the unfortunate victim of bad timing. Released just days before the Sept. 11 tragedies, Ketchum nonetheless has assembled a collection of 12 songs that run from catchy pop tunes to country shuffles to thoughtful, evocative ballads.

What's perhaps most special here - there are any number of musical and lyrical highlights - is the collection of singers employed by Ketchum and veteran singer-songwriter-producer Rodney Crowell. Though Ketchum's prowess as a country singer is at best workmanlike, crooners like ex-New Grass Revival lead singer John Cowan and former Poco and Eagles member Timothy B Schmit and even the pseudo-country band Ricochet blend amazingly well as background vocalists on several cuts. "Two of the Lucky Ones," a duet with Dolly Parton, is a little stiff with way too much warbling, but Ketchum more than makes up for it on the touching "Keep Mom and Dad in Love," a duet with Canadian singer Lisa Brokop. The duets aren't just window dressing. The depth of songwriting and musicianship that have become Ketchum's hallmark remain intact, yet it's Crowell's Spanish-tinged "Dreams of Martina" that really stands out.

Bad timing aside, Ketchum's latest is a solid effort. With all the voices behind Ketchum's, there's plenty to hear.