Aside from being the title song from his soon-to-be-released album, "One More Midnight" could be a testament to the last fifteen plus years of Hal Ketchum's career. It pays tribute to life on the road, something he is no stranger to as he launches a five week U.K. tour this month to be followed by an extensive tour of the states. One More Midnight, the latest album from featured artist Hal Ketchum, had its U.K. release on February 12 and will be hitting U.S. shelves in March or April.
This, his ninth release, stays pretty true to the heart and soul of Hal Ketchum – songs that are crafted and woven, many of them intricate stories. Set to a traditional country sound, the lyrics themselves often lean more toward the folk genre as we often get rich and meticulous details of a character's life composed in three and a half minute songs. Of course there is always an exception to the standard rules, and on One More Midnight that is "Poor Lila's Ghost." The stand-out track of the album, it chimes it at nearly fifteen minutes and twenty-six verses long.
In a recent interview I asked Ketchum about playing the song live and how audiences are receiving it. He responded, "It was interesting to play that live. The response was really good and I was really happy with it. People were willing to sit and listen to it… I just thought it was worth it. It was worth recording. It's such a journey; I really wanted it to make the record."
And a journey is exactly what the song is. Those twenty-six verses follow a man as he tries to shed the memory of Lila and are backed with acoustic guitar and banjo with the occasional appropriately placed cry of a fiddle and hauntingly spoken words by Tony Joe White. While it's appropriately placed as a centerpiece, in the dead middle of the album, a Hal Ketchum album wouldn't be complete without a couple of sweet love songs and a handful of lighthearted and up-tempo tracks.
"Forever Mine" is one of those tender love songs. According to the album's press release, Ketchum overheard his wife telling a friend on the phone, "He reminds me of things I never knew I wanted,” which he molded into the more universal "You remind me of things I never knew I wanted." He built the loving tribute from that and Mrs. Ketchum (Gina) earned herself a songwriting credit. The song is a soft and warm heartfelt declaration and a poetic tribute to a deep love. In a similar vein is "The Moment," another beautiful song full of sentimentality.
The recent single, "Just This Side of Heaven," is also focused on romance. This one, with a feel-good tempo, has a message that compares the love between a man and woman to a religious experience. He also dabbles with some blues-influenced numbers with "Travelin' Teardrop Blues" and "Little Red Dress," which I gave its own review in The Listening Room.
Whether it be the romantic love ballads, the blues-infused tracks, or the folk-inspired epic journeys, One More Midnight is at its heart a collection of Hal Ketchum's finely woven stories that are slices of life whether it be the romantic side or life on the road. From the title track: "One more sunset/ One more sweet dream/ Rocking to the rhythm of the road/ I've got one more midnight to go." Though, I do believe it will be many more midnights before we see Ketchum put life on the road and music behind him.