MP3 James Keelaghan - Home
A definite contender for Canada’s leading acoustic performer: he is one hell of a good songwriter, and as a guitarist his playing is practically faultless.
10 MP3 Songs
FOLK: Traditional Folk, EASY LISTENING: Adult contemporary
“The influences never stop.”
That’s Canadian singer songwriter James Keelaghan talking and it could be the slogan for folk music.
But James is answering a question about his own musical background. Who influenced him? How did someone who “didn’t come from a musical family per se” become a leading international musical figure? First, he says, the family loved music and offered appreciation and support. Then there is that influence factor:
“My father was a great influence as a story teller, my mother for a sense of humour. I listened to a lot of Irish traditional stuff when I grew up, tempered with Jethro Tull, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart.”
So, who has influenced Keelaghan?
“Liam Clancy for voice and guitar style and the poetry of Yeats. I love Harry Belafonte –the world’s greatest stage performer – and Pete Seeger – a fine balladeer, but influences never stop. I am influenced by David Francey, Oliver Schroer, Hugh McMillan, and a host of others now.”
Don’t forget to throw in the history influence. Keelaghan earned a degree in history from the University of Calgary, and his passion for it has inspired some of his most celebrated songs.
His debut album Timelines (1987 Tranquilla Music) was a collection of historically themed ballads.
Eight albums later, on A Few Simple Verses (2006 Jericho Beach Music), he’s coming at history the way a folk singer would: unabashedly paying tribute to songs he loves, many of which his father used to sing, many of which have no definite origin and all of which are part of living history.
Along the way, Keelaghan recorded seven albums between these two releases:
Small Rebellions (1990 Tranquilla Music) featuring the audience favourite ‘Red River Rising,’ set during Canada’s Riel Rebellion of 1870.
My Skies (1993), Keelaghan’s debut on the Green Linnet label, winner of a Juno award (Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy) for Best Roots Traditional Album;
A Recent Future (1995 Green Linnet) including some of Keelaghan’s most acclaimed works yet -- ‘Cold Missouri Waters’ is the story of a team of fire fighters who perished in the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana. Nominated for a Juno award in 1997 (Keelaghan’s second), two months on the Gavin Americana charts in the U.S.
Compadres (1997 Jericho Beach Music) with Latin guitarist Oscar Lopez on the Vancouver-based label Jericho Beach Music, fuses Latin and Celtic music into a new style they called ‘Celtino.’ It garnered a third Juno nomination for Best Roots Traditional Recording, voted Album of the Year by the readers of Vancouver’s Rogue Folk magazine.
Road (1999 Jericho Beach Music), with a ‘Canadian All Star’ line-up performing on the CD, is a deeply personal collection of songs.
Home (2002 Jericho Beach Music) returns to folk roots and a pared down sound.
Then Again (2004 Jericho Beach Music) Looks back and finds the best of his career.
Of course, every album features James’ baritone, a voice that soothes, seduces, and packs a punch. It is an influential voice, in an oral tradition where performance is arguably where it all happens.
“I love touching people as a performer,” he says. “Putting a song across so that people get inside the story. I love the immediacy of it, the feedback”.
“I love audiences in Denmark and Australia. Totally unrestrained and ready to let you know what they think in the most emphatic terms. I love touring in England and Australia. England for the ancientness of it, Australia for the newness of it.”
Obviously, Keelaghan is not having any trouble ‘breaking out’ of Canada. He has a devoted following around the world, with star turns at venues such as Denmark’s Tonder Festival, the Hong Kong Festival and Australia’s Port Fairy Folk Festival.
And you just know that with every trip across the water, those influences are percolating.
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