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JAMES KEELAGHAN - A Few Simple Verses

JAMES KEELAGHAN - A Few Simple Verses

About sixteen years ago I went to a gig at the Tonder folk festival in Denmark and the Canadian James Keelaghan was the new name on the bill.  He had a voice that in one instant could echo the thundering battle of Red River Rising and in the next lament Jenny Bryce’s death in childbirth, and at the end of the night we all left the room with stories on our minds.  For Keelaghan is a storyteller as much as anything else.

This time around it is not self-penned songs, which make up his new album but instead a selection of his own favourite songs, traditional or songs written by other people.  A Few Simple Verses, his ninth album, looks like Keelaghan visiting his own roots and he sounds at home.  The album has a very traditional feel also owing to the variety of great musicians involved, which range from Danu, James Fagan and Nancy Kerr, Jordan McConnell from the Duhks, Stephen Fearing, Oscar Lopez, Ruth Moody from The Wailin’ Jennys and Geoff Kelley from Spirit of the West.

The traditional songs are amongst others, great versions of The Bonnie Light Horseman and The Boston Burglar and songs of known origin include a lovely rendition of Paul Metsers’ Farewell to the Gold and My Blood, which Keelaghan co-wrote with Jez Lowe.  My two favourites on this album is Ewan MacColl’s Sweet Thames Flow Softly and the traditional song The Constant Lovers.  Classic versions.  A Few Simple Verses?  Yes maybe, but simply beautiful.

Pernille Rutzou 

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This album was reviewed in Issue 73 of The Living Tradition magazine.