James Keelaghan

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Called Canada’s finest singer-songwriter by one of the most respected and lauded music journalists of the last 50 years, James Keelaghan is an artist who has proven to be a man for all seasons.

As the calendar pages have turned, for almost a quarter of a century now, this poet laureate of the folk and roots music world has gone about his work with a combination of passion, intent and intensity, and curiosity.

Fusing his insatiable appetite for finding the next unique storyline Keelaghan also forges his pieces with brilliantly defined craftsmanship and a monogrammed artistic vision, making him one of the most distinctive and readily identifiable voices of not only the Canadian scene, but as a member of the international singer-songwriter community.

Armed with a songbook that has enlightened and enthralled, and been embraced, by audiences around the world, Keelaghan’s life as an artist is one that is a perpetual journey on so many levels.

Most importantly it’s a journey that has invited fans of literate and layered songwriting to be a part of his artistic expeditions, some that weave their way through marvelously etched stories of a historical nature with underlying universal themes, and others that mine the depths of the soul and the emotional trails of human relations. ̈His masterful story telling, over the course of nine recordings, has been part of the bedrock of his success, earning Keelaghan his share of nominations and awards, and acclaim from Australia to Scandinavia. The necessity to write has always been a double-edged sword."

"I’ve always had the urge to write. Some things weren’t being said in the way I wanted to say them. Then there are the different sides of what I write about. The narrative writing, the historical material, as well as the personal, where you have to take responsibility for what you are saying,” says the Calgary native who has been calling Winnipeg home for the past few years.A disciplined visionary, Keelaghan’s aces have long been a love of language, and history, as he earned a history degree years ago, his skills as a thespian that he acquired at an early age, that explain his ability to make an immediate connection with audiences in a live setting, and an ear for a memorable melody, and harmonies that make those melodies glisten.

“I’m good for 80 or so books a year, mostly history, non-fiction, but inspiration can come in many forms, I’m always on the lookout for a good story or idea. My sister told me the story that became Kiri’s Piano. It was such an image,” says Keelaghan that visits a dark chapter in Canadian history, Japanese interment camps in the Second World War.â' ̈ â' ̈Not only does his deep catalogue include timeless originals like Fires of Calais, Cold Missouri Waters, Jenny Bryce, Hillcrest Mine, and Kiri’s Piano. Keelaghan is also a possessive interpreter of outside material, a fine example being his gripping take on Gordon Lightfoot’s epic Canadian Railroad Trilogy on the Lighfoot Tribute disc Beautiful. There are a number of illustrations of his interpretive skills on his 2006 recording A Few Simple Verses. The closing tune on that spellbinding set, My Blood written with Jez Lowe, is one of many examples in Keelaghan’s career, where he has invited collaboration into his creative process.
“I was at the Celtic Colors Festival in 2008 and the producers locked six of us in a house for a week, and the company included Dave Gunning, David Francey, and Rose Cousins, it was an amazing experience. We had to come up with enough material for a show at the end of it.

“To go along with a lifelong accumulation of influences, there have been these opportunities to work with equals, whether if be Oliver Schroer, Hugh McMillan, or Oscar Lopez. The sparks of collaboration, batting melodies back and forth, whatever, have produced some wonderful results,” says the artist who ties it all together with a powerful voice, delivery, and a commanding presence where he finds a balance between examining the lighter and heavier sides of life.

For Keelaghan staying at the top of his game comes down to a very clear rule, “never stop accumulating.”

“I want my audiences to know that I am open enough to try new things and push their bounds.”

It was Dave Marsh, the award-winning American music critic and historian who not so long ago stated that James Keelaghan is “Canada’s finest songwriter,” and those few but powerful words of praise say it all about an artist who continues to set the bar at a lofty height.

JMI HEADLINES:

JMI Signs The Gift (May 20, 2018)

Tony McManus Headed West in May (May 10, 2018)

Peterborough Show Rescheduled for Keelaghan-McManus Double Bill (May 1, 2018)

James Keelaghan and Jez Lowe to Tour North America in the Fall (April 12, 2018)

And Best Album Goes to... The Young'Uns! (April 9, 2018)

JMI Signs Folk Legend, Peggy Seeger (March 23, 2018)

Ray Bonneville to Perform Western and Ontario Dates in March (February 20, 2018)

Black Umfolosi to Embark on North American Tour in February (January 27, 2018)

Australia's Shane Howard to Perform Western and Northern Dates (January 11, 2018)

Martin Simpson New Studio Album Released on Topic Records (December 19, 2017)

A Grammy Nod for Guy Davis! (November 30, 2017)

Martin Simpson to Tour Canada in October 2019 (November 29, 2017)

Quartette Christmas Coming to the Maritimes (November 15, 2017)

Ten Strings And A Goat Skin Touring Central Canada (November 11, 2017)

Vishtèn Touring Western Canada This Month (November 8, 2017)

The Young'Uns to Tour Canada in November (October 31, 2017)

Tony McManus Headed for Western Canada (October 1, 2017)

England's Moulettes Touring Canada in October (September 23, 2017)

JMI Signs Wales' Calan! (September 22, 2017)

Guy Davis to Tour Canada in October/November (September 18, 2017)

Claire Lynch Returning to Maritimes in October (September 13, 2017)

Two JMI Artists Included in the Top 50 Guitarists of All Time (July 26, 2017)

JMI Signs England's The Transports (July 25, 2017)

Sylvia Tyson and Cowboy Junkies to Headline Kingsville Music Festival (July 17, 2017)

Ten Strings And A Goat Skin to Headline Mammoth Canada Day Show in Thunder Bay (June29, 2017)

JMI signs Austin's Band of Heathens (June 27, 2017)

Claire Lynch US and Canadian Summer Dates (June 26, 2017)

Guy Davis to Tour Western Canada with Fabrizio Poggi in 2018 (June 26, 2017)

Moulettes Summer Dates (June 20, 2017)

Young'Uns Canadian and Overseas Summer Dates (June 20, 2017)

England's "Best Folk Group" to Tour Eastern Canada (June 20, 2017)

See News page for more JMI news.