By Rob Weir
History: The First 25 Years
Twenty-three years ago I interviewed, for this publication, an up-and-coming Canadian musician. The flowing locks are gone, but everything else about James Keelaghan confirms my initial impression that he is among folk music’s most intelligent, literary, and literate songwriters. History is true to its title on four levels.
First, it contains 18 songs from Keelaghan’s backlist. Second, songs such as “Cold Missouri Waters,” “Kiri’s Piano,” and “Fires of Calais” are vivid retellings of historical events. Third, several songs are personal history—from his Calgary homestead (“My Skies”) to friendship (“Mi Vida”) and love (“Somewhere Ahead”).
Finally, this boxed CD showcases Keelaghan’s growth as an artist and a human being, as made poignantly clear in an often self-effacing accompanying DVD that gives the back story to songs and shares road stories. Keelaghan’s continuing career is all the more remarkable in light of a nerve condition which has left him unable to feel his left hand. The music features Keelaghan’s sweet tenor and rolling prairie strums; the stories his wit and intellect. ’Twould make a fine holiday gift.