During a week of seeing music both new and old, I opted for something Ole, specifically Grand Ole Opry member Hal Ketchum, performing at the Lewis A. Swyer Theater at The Egg Performing Arts Center. Not being too deep into country music (short of Johnny Cash and his peers) Hal Ketchum is a new name to me, but the voice was familiar from the few songs I listened to beforehand, retaining a Warren Haynes solo quality to his seated performance.
Forget the pop country that has ruined the genre for the past 20 years – this was the real deal, with a Texas twang from a local boy – Ketchum grew up in Greenwich, NY, a short drive north from Albany. The mighty fine Kenny Grimes accompanied Ketchum and provided the lead for a variety of old-country tunes. “The Continental” was a hilarious song based on the “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring Christopher Walken, explained by Ketchum with a story before the song, as he did nearly all songs this evening.
This was soft country at its finest, but at times the tempo picked up to a good foot tapping and head bobbing and that was the only workout the audience was getting tonight. “Small Town Saturday Night” was one of these songs, a pure American song through and through, full of twang and Mellencamp lyrics and guitar. Meanwhile a chatty crowd began to throw song titles out to him left and right, and while his setlist addressed some of these requests he was clearly growing frustrated, chiding the crowd with “What am I, a jukebox?” He shook his head and an audience member said “Play what you want!” with a bit of applause in favor. “Chickadee” was dedicated to his five grandchildren, and “Mama Knows the Highway” was played despite not being practiced, but came off perfect. Hal said afterwards, “Good country music will never steer you wrong.”
The encore, “Trail of Tears” was a sad song to end the night on, but Hal wasn’t looking to go out on a high note. He had played a wide range of songs and appeased some of the audience’s requests while giving a long-awaited performance at The Egg.
With the show at The Egg ending by 9:15 PM, I made my way down to Parish Public House to catch Dangermuffin, a South Carolina jamgrass band that I have waited a long time to see. Local band Hawbuckees opened the quiet night on Broadway, while Dangermuffin gave a set alternating between covers and originals with mild bluegrass and reggae jamming throughout. Nothing too adventurous, Dangermuffin worked through “Quinn the Eskimo”, “Franklin’s Tower”, Seal’s “Crazy” and a combo of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line>Iko Iko”, all of which had good jams in the outros. What was most surprising was the lack of a bass guitar, but you would never know it due to guitarist Dan Lotti doing something to produce the bass sound, something you have to see live to believe. An acoustic set in front of the stage with upright bass and acoustic guitars featured the original “Banjo Love” followed by the bluegrass staple “Midnight Moonlight”. Dangermuffin was a perfect musical compliment to Hal Ketchum and drew Day five of this Music Marathon to a close.
Next up: Mister F with ELM at The Hollow