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Reconnecting with James Keelaghan – House of Cards

Photo:Mike Gifford

James Keelaghan is one of those artist whose music I love that often gets lost in the shuffle. His most recent album House of Cards was released way back in 2009 and for the longest time was not available on Rhapsody or Napster. Well the other day I found the album on Rhapsody and James has another winner!! Keelaghan is another of my many Canadian favorites. He was born in Calgery, but now calls Winnipeg home.  He is a Juno Award winner and many of his songs have an historical base.  “Kiri’s Piano” is about the internment of Japanese Canadians, while  “October 70” is about the FLQ crisis, are inspired by events and figures in Canadian history. But some like, “Cold Missouri Waters”, have a US locale, which is about the Mann Gulch fire of 1949  in Montana. For me Keelaghan is an all round artist with a  great baritone voice,  a good guitarist, and most of all a great  story-song writer. I love his soon “Number 37” a great song about a girl and her horse at a rodeo race.

On his Myspace page Keelahgan says this about his writing:

“I’ve always had the urge to write,” says the Calgary native who has been calling Winnipeg home for the past few years. “Some things weren’t being said in the way I wanted to say them, some thing were not being written about at all. That’s why i started to write the historical material. That led me to writing my own personal narratives as well.

He lists his influences as:

Earl on, Traditional Irish and English Ballads Liam Clancy, Ewan MacColl, sprinkled with Led Zeppelin, Santana, Neil Young, Jesse Winchester, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Valdy This was followed by Captain Beefheart, The McGarrigles, King Crimson, Talking heads, Stan Rogers, Johnathan Edwards, Alan Stivell, Paul Brady, Andy Irvine, Emmy Lou, Norma Waterson, Nic Jones, Nick Drake, Pied Pumpkin

House of Cards (2009) was produced by James Keelaghan and is a collection of ten new original songs, some co-written with Karine Polwarth, David Francey and others. On the first listen my favorite tracks include, the title track “House of Card” about the 2008 financial meltdown and “McConnville’s” about a bar and it’s regulars.

Here’s how Terry Wickham, the producer of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, sums up Keelaghan’s music:

“James has become the complete artist. A brilliant tunesmith who has become one of the most engaging performers of our time. You always know the journey with James is going to be great, you just never know what all the destinations are. That is why the curve on his career continues to rise.”

Here’s James performing “McConnville’s” from House of Cards