Don't be misled by the inner-booklet photo of an earnest-looking Hal Ketchum gazing into the distance next to an ornately inscribed quote where he declares himself "a sculptor of song." Despite this potentially embarrassing gaffe, Ketchum displays considerably more humility and good taste than many of his pop-country contemporaries. There's a fairly high soul quotient here that puts Ketchum more in line with the likes of Jim Lauderdale (or at least Lee Roy Parnell) than with any hat act.
The aesthetic credibility of Ketchum's approach is further insured by the production and songwriting efforts of Rodney Crowell. Much of LUCKY MAN is occupied by emotive ballads that draw equally from pop, soul, and country. But when Ketchum latches onto a rocker, as on "Don't Let Go," he eschews the self-conscious boot-scooting approach of so many neo-Nashvillians in favor of an agreeably retro rock & roll feel. In the end, LUCKY MAN finds an agreeable middle ground between new traditionalism and the country mainstream.