James Keelaghan, folksinger, musician (b Calgary 28 Oct 1959). A talented singer-songwriter and guitarist, he began performing FOLK MUSIC locally while studying history at the University of Calgary. In 1983 he worked with Scottish ballad singer Margaret Christl, and subsequently played in several groups including the punk/folk group Ernie the Band. In 1985 folksinger Garnet Rogers heard him sing one of his own compositions, "Jenny Bryce," and encouraged him to make music a full-time career.
By 1987 Keelaghan was touring extensively as a solo artist, playing FOLK FESTIVALS and recording his first album, Timelines (now reissued as a CD on Tranquilla), which included songs about the Depression ("Boom Gone to Bust") and about World War II ("Fires of Calais"). His strong interest in Canadian social history was also evident on his second album, Small Rebellions (Tranquilla, 1990), which included such original and powerful compositions as "Hillcrest Mine" (about the 1914 mining disaster), "Red River Rising" (about the Riel Rebellion) and "Small Rebellions" (about the murder of striking miners in Estevan, Saskatchewan, in 1931). Since then Keelaghan has released 4 new CDs: My Skies (Green Linnet, 1993), the winner of a Juno award in 1994, A Recent Future (Green Linnet, 1995) and Compadres (Jericho Beach, 1997) with Chilean-Canadian guitar virtuoso Oscar Lopez and Road (1999).
Keelaghan's recent lyrics have been more introspective and poetic, but such historical songs as "Kiri's Piano" (about the treatment of a Japanese-Canadian internee in BC during WWII), "Cold Missouri Waters" (about a 1949 forest fire) and "Honore" (about Riel's friend and supporter Honore Jaxon) still provide highlights on the later solo albums. Compadres, which showcases his ability as a guitarist, is a high-energy experiment in mixing Latin and Celtic roots to create a musical hybrid that he calls "Celtino." During the 1990s Keelaghan toured extensively in the United States and Australia as well as across Canada.