Years ago, Hal Ketchum packed up his guitars and left Nashville, turning his back on a successful, career in country music that had spanned well over 20 years with five million albums and a half-dozen Top 10 hits — including staples like “Small Town Saturday Night” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll”. But Ketchum was exhausted, and his multiple sclerosis, a condition that often left him partially paralyzed, wasn’t making matters any easier. He wanted to go home. And that’s exactly what the singer/songwriter did, heading back to Texas for some peace, quiet, and serious introversion.
“I was hiding out,” he admits. “I’d been in the public for so long. I didn’t even go into town; I found pleasure in watching the stars at night and watching the sun during the afternoon. I also put out a lot of bird feeders and basically talked to myself all day long.”
On I’m the Troubadour, Ketchum ditches the country rulebook and tackles a combination of folk, blues, and soul music instead, tying the whole thing together with the rootsy rumblings of his studio band and the same croon that helped make him a permanent member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1994. I’m the Troubadour also marks his first release for Music Road Records, an Austin-based label co-run by folk artist Jimmy LaFave.
Strangely enough, the latest release from Ketchum — brings to mind the thrill of his earliest albums. I’m the Troubadour has a similar sound, a left-of-center immediacy that makes it one of the most important albums in Ketchum’s career. After logging nearly two decades on the roster of Curb Records, Ketchum has earned the right to call his own shots. He isn’t following any rules. He isn’t catering to any trends. Instead, he’s simply following his muse wherever it leads.