By Wendy Owens
Peoria native Joshua Ketchmark has truly led a storied life in the music industry with his adventure taking him from small town Illinois to Seattle to LA and beyond. He’s worked with the rock band Fuel, Jonny Lang and Melissa Etheridge. He’s learned much about audio and production while sitting in with legendary producers Rob Cavallo (Green Day), Michael Beinhorn (Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more); he’s worked KISS’s rehearsals and even had to deliver keyboard gear to a Four Seasons’ gig in the past. This is truly the definition of working your way up and advancing in the business.
Much of the same can be said when describe his own musical journey which now spans a total of 12 releases thanks to his latest, Under Plastic Stars. As a singer/songwriter he’s rooted in folk, soul, country, acoustic solo performer stuff and a little touch of rock n’ roll. He’s brings emotion, charge and dynamics to even the simplest numbers and his ability to arrange gorgeous compositions that still got a little grit is second to none. The soulful, one-two opening punch of “We Were Everything” and “Every Mystery” blends striking, fluid vocal melodies, dazzling acoustic guitars, moody production, rhythmic accompaniment when necessary and even a pinch of organ/synthesizer work in the latter of the two tracks. These two tunes literally set the stage for everything to come on the rest of the recording.
“Let It Rain” dials down the mood to a weighty, bass-y stomp driven by the low-end and piano while Ketchmark’s gristly melody vocals and intricate acoustic/slide/electric guitar motifs swerve in and out of different enchanting and engaging melodies… Soft and on the somber side the acoustic-centered guy/girl vocal duet of “Lucky at Leavin’” and the immediately following, slow-motion country-kicker “Hereafter” keep the vibes cool and collected with strong harmonic interplay between the vocalists on the former. “Get Out Alive” and “Saturday Night” ratchet up the fun with more rock n’ roll-y tempos, distantly howling organs (on “Get Out Alive”), more vibrant and moving guitar licks and vocals that range from powerhouse leads to the glorious duet harmonization heard during “Saturday Night’s” finale. Another standout shines in the moon-drenched, dark roots-y ambience of “17’s” night side guitar work and candelabra glow soul vocals. It’s another one of Ketchmark’s tunes that just reaches deep inside your chest and holds your heart tight. The word “emotional” doesn’t even begin to cover the emotive depths plunged by this sundering number. The album ends on a high-energy note with closer “The Great Unknown” bringing both rock n’ roll pacing and thunder to a blues-cooked jam heavy on the southern-fried soul.
Joshua Ketchmark has dropped the best album of his career with this beauty. The 12 tracks cover a large stretch of ground with numerous genres applied to the musical landscape. Anyone into roots and rural music with a twist should absolutely pick up a copy of Under Plastic Stars.