Hal Ketchum songs made quite the dent on the charts in the early '90s. Since then, the gifted vocalist and storyteller kept on touring across America and recording albums, including a decent big label farewell in 2008's Father Time and 2014's genre-defiant I'm the Troubadour.
Ketchum passed away on Nov. 23, 2020 following a battle with dementia.
A native of Greenwich, New York, Hal Michael Ketchum first performed as a rhythm and blues drummer. A move to Austin, Texas as a young man broadened his singing and songwriting horizons, paving a clearer path to Nashville.
His mainstream career began with the instant success of the 1991 album Past the Point of Rescue. From there, a voice that made him an ideal duet partner for Charley Pride ("For Today," "Hope You're Feeling Me Like I'm Feeling You"), Lisa Brokop ("Keep Mom and Dad in Love"), Shelby Lynne ("If I Never Knew You") and Dolly Parton ("Two of the Lucky Ones") kept new songs rolling in beyond that initial flurry of chart success in the United States and Canada.
As usually happens with lists, this greatest hits roundup barely does Ketchum's career justice. It leaves out old favorites like "I Know Where Love Lives," "Veil of Tears," "Someplace Far Away," and "The Richest Man in Texas" and such recent reminders of his talent as "The Carpenter's Way," "In Front of the Alamo" and "Just This Side of Heaven (Hal-lelujah)." Of course, if you love those songs, you'll surely dig these.
10. "I Miss My Mary"
Past the Point of Rescue is one of Ketchum's best, from the obvious hits we'll get to shortly to this deeper cut about drinking to forget a deceased lover.
9. "Stay Forever"
Ketchum's voice made for some soft and tender love songs, in the same vein as the always sensitive Bryan White. Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fame co-wrote the song with Ketchum.
8. "Five O'Clock World"
Ketchum turned this oldies standard by Pittsburgh music legends The Vogues into a country song, complete with a little old-school singing cowboy yodeling.
7. "I Saw the Light"
6. "Hearts Are Gonna Roll"
Upbeat songs that tow the thin line between heartland rock and country music set Ketchum apart in the days of achy, breaky heartbreakers and line dancers.
5. "Mama Knows the Highway"
As the song says, "Good country music will never steer you wrong." This is a good one, for sure, that tells the story of a road-wise truck driving woman.
4. "Every Little Word"
Everything points to "I love you" beyond a three-word phrase on this sensitive yet upbeat display of Ketchum's storytelling talents.
3. "Past the Point of Rescue"
Part then-contemporary country, part bluesy country-rock, this title track, and the album it's from, deserve credit for making sure we all learned about these other nine selections.
2. "Sure Love"
The '90s was a great time to be a good ballad singer in Nashville. Ketchum sang them like few others, as captured in this Gary Burr co-write from 1992.
1. "Small Town Saturday Night"
This all-time great Ketchum tune lands somewhere in between John Mellencamp and Dwight Yoakam on the country-rock storyteller scale. It's the first of four Ketchum singles to crack the Billboard Hot Country Songs top five in three years.
This post was originally published on May 23, 2018.