The second of my folk gigs that I’m writing about (and I’m seeing Ralph McTell tonight, so it’ll soon be a third) is that of the marvellous James Keelaghan, a Canadian singer-songwriter. I knew very little of his work before the gig, but knew some through my family, as my parents and brother are all massive fans of his.
Keelaghan read history at university, and many of his songs refer to past events. One in particular is a favourite song of mine. “Hillcrest Mine” refers to Canada’s biggest mining disaster, in June 1914, which killed 189 people. As Keelaghan says in the video below, it’s not actually about the disaster itself. There are quite a few miners on my Dad’s side of the family, so this is a really emotive song for me:
It was two 45 minute sets that Keelaghan performed along with bassist David Woodhead, who’s album is also worth checking out, incidentally. Much of the material was from his last album, House of Cards. This is, on the whole, a solid album, but the title track is a stroke of genius. For its full glory, see the version on Keelaghan’s myspace page. Here’s a live version, in which you get to hear some more of Keelaghan’s typically dry, witter crowd patter:
James Keelaghan is, then, another folky you should check out if you like literate, story-telling songwriting.