• Gloria Tang

Joshua Ketchmark New Album 'Blood' will release on 8 July

Upon first glance at the album cover to Joshua Ketchmark’s Blood album, one can’t help but think his face looks a lot like a familiar artist’s rendition of what Jesus might have looked like. And then with a title like Blood, and thinking about how Christ was crucified, well, this must be some kind of a religious music collection. Right? Ah, but it’s not. Instead, it’s an album of country-tinged rock & roll. And it’s a pretty good one, at that.



One song which might serve as the album’s title track is titled “Covered in Blood.” It’s a rocking song that features organ prominently. It sounds at times like a recording by Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. It is emblematic of the album, overall, which leans heavily on heartland rock musical dynamics.


Blood is actually Ketchmark’s tenth studio album. He wrote all twelve songs on the album, which was recorded in many different places. These locales included Arizona, California, Tennessee and Georgia. Its cast includes many prominent sidemen, most notably Sadler Vaden, who plays with Jason Isbell.


As you might expect, Ketchmark grew up in the Midwest, a few hours south of Chicago. After playing in many different bands, Ketchmark recorded his first solo album, List of Regrets, in 2008. He’s settled in Tennessee, where he built Black Gold Speakeasy, his studio. It was there that he expanded his work to include mixing, producing and engineering albums for other performers.


Although many of these recordings rock out a bit, he also has a softer musical personality, too. He reveals this side of his musical muse with the ballad “Death Trap.” Whether songs are beat-heavy or rhythmically sparse, Ketchmark sings these songs with an expressive, vulnerable vocal tone. “All I See,” for example, builds up to a near tent revival level of passion in places. Once again, that organ adds necessary sonic punch. ‘Death’ comes into view again with “Deadliest Thing,” which along with “Ashes” and “Covered in Blood,” give the album’s song titles a bit of a morbid look. In fact, the mood created by “Once the Whiskey” is downright spooky.


The musicians Ketchmark has playing on his album give the project and especially professional sheen. Although there is a strong Nashville connection to it, this music actually fits better into the Americana realm. It’s too contemporary to pass for classic rock, yet too traditional to be mistaken for alternative rock.


It’s strange how rock music has evolved over the years. Thankfully, there is the Americana genre for those artists that may not fit neatly into typical rock, country and folk categories. Ketchmark incorporates a lot of different sounds and styles into his music. He’d probably be misunderstood if he were pigeonholed into to just any one of them. Ah, but Americana allows artists the freedom to follow their individual sonic desires, wherever it might go.


The album ends with “Tazewell County Line,” a heartbroken track that may just be the album’s best song. (Nothing wrong with saving the best for last). It caps a heartfelt collection of songs. And that’s not bad for a Jesus lookalike.


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-Dan MacIntosh