When the famous train robber and outlaw Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum was preparing to be hanged in 1901 in the New Mexico Territory he had only one request: “Please dig my grave very deep.”
And for 119 years it was deep enough. But his soul has been rising.
The soul of Black Jack will emerge in “musical necromancy” on Friday at the Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Showroom as one of his descendants, Tylor Ketchum, takes the stage with his band, the Train Robbers.
On the 118th anniversary of Black Jack Ketchum’s hanging, Tylor and the Train Robbers released the music video to the album’s central track: “The Ballad of Black Jack Ketchum.” Along with other cuts on the album, the track serves to reanimate the dark and dramatic life of his distant relative while providing a familiar country and Americana grounding that will keep the audience moving all night.
In recent years the band has shared the stage with acts from Turnpike Troubadors to the Marshall Tucker Band.
“The Train Robbers remind me of a young James McMurtry in the best of ways,” said Justin Smith, who books talent for The Wort and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. “You can dance to them all night long or get lost in the lyrics.”
If you’re looking for the former, that’s what you’re going to get. The three-hour set will include every song from both albums not yet released and a handful of covers.
Ketchum (the one that’s still alive) said the family story of Black Jack was passed down through generations on his father’s side before capturing his attention a few years ago.
“To be a songwriter and have that story fall on your lap ... It was right away a project there’s no way I could turn down,” he said.
Despite the horrific acts his forebear committed (and paid for) he learned to find a common spirit between Black Jack and himself, Ketchum said
“The idea of avoiding the nine-to-five, of finding some alternative way to make money is something that connects my musicianship to his life as an outlaw,” he said. “Oh, and his brothers were part of his gang too.”
Behind frontman Ketchum is the Train Robbers, made up of Ketchum’s soon-to-be father-in-law, Johnny “Shoes” Pisano, on lead guitar, and Ketchum’s brothers Tommy, on drums, and Jason, on bass. Furthering the family project, Ketchum said, his grandfather drew the cover art for “Best of the Worst Kind,” which was intended to blend the faces of Ketchum and Black Jack.
“The fact that it’s a ‘brother band’ makes the harmony singing sink all the deeper,” Smith said.
The band — which honors the family lyrically while also being of a family project — promises to deliver a raw and honest sound. But the night at the Silver Dollar Showroom will not be just about Black Jack Ketchum and musical necromancy.
The show will also serve as a fundraiser for the global village team at Habitat For Humanity of the Greater Teton Area and its coming trip to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. The night will include an array of southern Mexican food, drink specials and raffle prizes. ￼