This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Well, there certainly are Francophiles and Anglophiles. What about Canadaphiles? Surely our neighbor to the north must engender a similar collection of devotees. But copying the modest mien of Canadians, obscurity may well be the watchword for this group. Well, I want to join. And it's because of James Keelaghan.
After somehow having missed "Road," his previous release, his latest, "Home," found its way to my CD player. A couple of listens later and it struck me--what a pleasure it is to again hear his soothing, comfortable vocals. His is not a classically-trained voice, but if ever a people, a country or the world needs a measure of reassurance, James Keelaghan is the person to deliver the message.
"Home" lacks a cut with the magnificent scope and power of Keelaghan's classic "Cold Missouri Waters" (as do most releases), but the offerings incrementally build to 40-some minutes of enjoyment, covering the gamut from social, political and cultural commentary to personal observations.
"Henry's Down Fall," is one that somehow escaped membership in Andy Irvine's repertoire. About the banishment of a petty young English criminal to quasi-slavery in Tasmania, Keelaghan sings of the motivation for such a lawbreaker:
"...Although the poor of England"Sinatra and I" is not what your thinking. Rather than a recounting of Rat Pack escapades, a vagabond rescues a blue-eyed mutt from the pound and wryly notes:
do labour and toil.
They're robbed of every consequnce
and produce of the soil..."
"...Turns out as well he's a pretty good singerKeelaghan takes the 1970 kidnapping of James Cross, the British trade commissioner to Canada, by Quebec terrorists, and paints a larger picture involving the nature of freedom and changing viewpoints in "October 70."
Though he tends more to blues than to strangers at night..."
In Ian Tamblyn's "Woodsmoke and Oranges," pedal steel guitar and violin provide an exotic feel to this song about connection to nature and place.
As so often with the best of tunes, the rebuilding of the Canadian Parliament after a fire in 1916 in "Stonecutter," morphs into a lament for the massive number of 18-to-30-year-olds who perished in the First World War. Only older masons were available to do the work as Keelaghan sings:
"...The fields of France had swallowedTackling the culture of gobbledygook and spin in "Nothing," he sings:
the apprentice lads..."
"...Give him an issue he'll find his way around itKeelaghan's also offers a sweet and delicate version of the traditional "The Flower of Magherally."
By scrambling his syntax and hoping to confound it
Nothing's what he ventures nothing's what we gain...
"...All sound and fury you know how the saying goes
Signifying nothing but the poser and the pose..."
Maybe I'll just settle for being a Keelaghanphile. Sounds good enough for me.
Keelaghan, on vocals, guitar and octave 12 string guitar, is assisted by Oliver Schroer on vocal,s violin, guitar, octave mandolin, trempet, electric guitar, mandolin, tambourine and tenor guitar; Hugh McMillan on vocals, bass, pedal steel guitar, octave mandolin and electric guitar; Ben Grossman on percussion; Rochelle Zubot and Darlene on vocals.
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