Hal Ketchum entertained the audience with a night full of music and stories along with special guests, Wood and Wire.

When there’s a show at the Kessler Theater, you know it’s going to include excellent music, you’re going to be entertained, and you’re going to be treated well. Jeff Lyles has built up the venue to become a launching point for up-and-coming acts as well as a destination point for established musicians.

On this chilly, mid-December night, most of the audience got their first chance to see Wood and Wire. The bluegrass group made many new fans with their exceptional musical talent and songwriting skills.

The four-man group consisting of guitarist Tony Kamel, mandolin player Billy Bright, banjo player Trevor Smith, and Dom Fisher on the bass fiddle, captivated the crowd with their first song, “Run, Snake, Run.” A cover of John Hartford’s “Down On The Levee” featured exquisite solos by Trevor and Billy.

Their harmony, whether two, three, or all four of them, blended together well. They had a sound of their own yet reminded the crowd of exceptional bluegrass bands of the past. A few songs also incorporated some folk music into their repertoire.

The group received a well-earned round of applause from new fans. It will be fun to watch them progress through the ranks.

The full house roared in approval as the lights dimmed and Hal Ketchum walked onstage. Dressed in blue jeans and a flannel shirt, he quickly discarded his shoes so he could play barefoot.

Armed with his electric guitar, and Kenneth Grimes on acoustic, Hal told a dirty joke before starting with his hit, “Past The Point Of Rescue.” His voice was slightly deeper, but as strong as ever, and he used vocal inflections as another instrument.

Telling stories and jokes between every song gave him the opportunity to connect with his loyal fans. He told of writing a song for a Julia Roberts movie, then seeing the film and finding out the director used all of eight seconds of it. This night, he sang a longer version of “Awaiting Redemption.”

“I Know Where Love Lives” and “I Miss My Mary” were true stories set to music. He even sang “Continental Farewell,” which was based on the Saturday Night Live skit. It seemed as if all of his songs could have been played while sitting in someone’s living room and jamming with friends.

Ketchum sang songs about his ex-wife, his son, his daughter, and an emotional song about his father. He yodeled in his cover of “Five O’Clock World,” a staple song of many movies. “Stay Forever” was a poignant love song that touched many in the crowd while the lyrics of “Too Many Memories” kept them enthralled.

Breaking away from his serious music, the Grand Ole Opry member played a song he wrote to get out of a record contract. He told of going into an executives office wearing a trench coat with lederhosen underneath and singing “A Poke A Day,” and the dirty ditty turned into a singalong.

A request for “Someplace Far Away” yielded the first composition he ever wrote. “It’s A Long Way Down” preceded Hal’s signature song, “Small Town Saturday Night.” The crowd knew every word and sang with him. It ended in a jam session and huge applause.

Ketchum tried to leave, but he wasn’t getting away from his dedicated fans without an encore. “Mama Knows The Highway” was a light-hearted song and was perfect to end the night.

Hal remains a force in country music. He has reduced his touring as a result of a form of multiple sclerosis, but still retains his uncanny ability to relate with everyone in the crowd. His loyal fans come out to see him whenever he plays and he makes new fans at every show.

Many go back and listen to his 11 studio albums and hear how he’s progressed from his early days of “songwriting school” at Gruene Hall where he learned from famous wordsmiths such as Townes Van Zant, Lyle Lovett, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. He wasn’t born in Texas, but he got there as fast as he could and fit in perfectly with the other Texas Troubadours.

Be sure to catch Hal when he’s playing in your area. He’s an all-around performer with songs and stories that will keep you entertained.

Special thanks to to Jeff, Graham, and Karen at The Kessler for their help.

Joe Guzman of National Rock Review was on hand to capture the event.

Hal Ketchum
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Wood and Wire
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Kessler Theater
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Event Date: 15-Dec-2016