In an era of pro-tools, auto-tune and other forms of digital studio trickery, Hal Ketchum decided to record “Father Time” the old-fashioned way. In the course of two days, Hal and his crack band of musicians (people like Bran Sutton, Russ Pahl, Aubrey Haynie, Eddie Bayers and Darrell Scott) cranked out 14 tunes that speak to the way records used to be recorded. There are little imperfections in the music just as it should be.
Remember a few years ago when there seemed to be an endless parade of songs about homeless folks? Remember how most of them usually told the same story? Well, aside from the homeless angle of this song, “Invisible” actually doesn’t tell the same story. It actually finds Ketchum singing a lyric that finds the ‘roadside man’ understanding of all the people who refuse to look at him. I can see a parallel to radio and Hal Ketchum’s career as he had a once thriving career and now can’t buy a hit. He’s almost invisible to radio but that doesn’t stop him from keeping on and putting himself out there in the world.
Anyone who’s suffered the passing of a loved one (or a fall from grace) will relate to “Yesterday’s Gone.” It tells the story of men who decide that there’s nothing left to live for when their beloved wives pass on. It was those wives who propped them up and kept them vibrant. “Millionaire’s Wife” tells a story of a man who foolishly gets seduced into thinking this woman loves him instead of the millionaire. “Millionaire’s wife is a millionaire’s widow and I’m stuck here in this cell.” The instrumentals on the album are vibrant, lively and the bluesy vocal by Hal is quite passionate.
Ketchum teamed up with Darrell Scott to write “Ordinary Day.” It is written from the prospective of a waitress and how she lives through her days and what she would do if she weren’t such an ordinary person. “Surrounded By Love” is a sub three minute opus about the way love can help people overcome many obstacles, even such things as being broke. It’s a nice banjo and fiddle paced ode to Hal’s father. “The Preacher And Me” is the first song Ketchum ever wrote (as he remembers it was written anyway) and, over a folksy, bluegrass-y melody we hear Ketchum singing a story song that’s about a relationship between a Preacher and a man who both have a plot to do each other in only for fate to intervene.
“Down On The Guadalupe” finds Ketchum enjoying living in the moment in and around nature while Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl” tells a story, over a fiddle and bass laced traditional country arrangement, about a man who becomes enthralled with a Jersey Girl. For Ketchum, it’s a ‘ripped from real life” kind of story as his wife is his own Personal Jersey girl. “Strangest Dreams” rounds out the album on a soft and tender note.
Hal Ketchum hasn’t had an album released in the United States for six years, (The UK was lucky enough to get “One More Midnight” in 2006), but for longtime fans “Father Time” is well worth the wait. The raw, what-you-hear, is-what-we-played sound is refreshing indeed but without strong songs, nobody would care for the album. In a career filled with well-constructed albums, “Father Time” may just be the crowning achievement of Hal Ketchum’s career.