Angela: We are at Bodles Opera House. I'm speaking with Canadian Juno award winner (1994 JUNO Award and 1996 JUNO nomination), James Keelaghan, welcome to Folk Plus James.
James: Pleased to be here, or there - or wherever I am.
Angela: It's great to talk to you. Did you have trouble getting over the border? I was just in Ottawa (at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals) and that was all the buzz.
James: It was pretty complex getting across this time, more complex than its been the last 15 years
Angela: It costs a lot? Its time consuming? Its lots of paperwork?
James: It costs a lot if you expidite the process now, and its strongly recommended that you expidite it, but even in an expitided process it took close us 2 1/2 months to get them to approve the visa application and even that we didn't really know until a week before the tour. So they are not making it easy for foreign artists to come into this country. Right at the time that Canada had relaxed its rules to make it way easier for American artists to come into Canada - and this has nothing to do with September 11th, this all started long before that.
Angela: It is ironic that just a few weeks ago they made it very easy for Americans to come up. My understanding is, after talking with people in Ottawa, that it could be the day before and they still have no permission to go over and for a mere thousand dollars, they will let you across. It seems like highway robbery.
James: Well it's free enterprise isn't it?
Angela: We were talking before about songs you thought may not have gotten enough press or airplay. Is there one that you are particularly fond of that doesn't seem to get mentioned a lot?
James: There is not one that leaps out at me, you know. I'm just glad that any of them get noticed quite frankly, and that people like what they like and I like that they like it. I don't think there is any one song that I think should be getting more play. I'd be happier if there were actually more people who sold millions and millions of albums recording my songs. That would be great.
Angela: Did life change a lot when Cry Cry Cry did Missouri Waters? Or not really.
James: Um. It gave me a little more profile here. The thing is of course that people are notorious for not actually reading the liner notes. So, Richard Shindell gets a lot of talk about that song he wrote, and I get a lot about "I didn't know you wrote that song"
Angela: Sure, like Bette Midler and From a Distance.
James: Yeah. So the song writer is still sort of the invisible hand behind these things. But, that having been said, the song does open a lot of doors with audiences and places that were not necessarily open to me before.
Angela: If you could hand pick someone to cover a tune, do you have a match that you've wished for?
James: (Easily begins this quick list) I'd like Alan Jackson to record "Message to the Future", I want Willie Nelson to record "Cold Missouri Waters" and I want Emmy Lou Harris to do "Orion".
Angela: You've never thought about this before obviously...
James: (laughing) No, never!
Angela: Right. Then you can stop doing Richard Shindell covers to make a living.
James: Yeah, exactly! (laughing)
Angela: I'd love it if you'd introduce one of your tunes, and we can go into it, here on Folk Plus.
James: Let me pick something that will be obscure for American audiences and thats a song off the new CD called "October 70". Its about what in Canada is popularly known as the October Crisis, and it's not raking leaves. In 1970 there was a French Separists Group called the Front de libaration du Quebec, the FLQ. They kidnapped a British trade representatvie, a guy by the name of James Cross. And held him for close to two months.
Angela: Oh, I remember that. In the trunk of a car or something?
James: No, that was another guy that was kidnapped, a guy by the name of Pierre La Porte. He was found in the trunk of the car. He wasn't in...well he wasn't alive. The Quebec government declared that they were was a state of what they called Apprehended Insurrection. They apprehended the fact that there was an insurreciton in progress, even though everyone know that the FLQ was a tiny splinter group with very little support. Even though they knew that it was two different groups of people who kidnapped one, James Cross and two, Pierre La Porte, a Canadaian Cabinet Minister, they asked the Federal Government to send the Federal Army in. The Federal Government declared what's called in Canada the War Measures Act. They basically suspended civil liverties and sent the army into occupy Quebec. They started massive arrests. People could be arrested and held without charge or a hearing for up to a month. So immediately they started arresting, who? Artists, poets, left wing political thinkers. People who were involved in the separatist movement that had no connection whatever to terrorism were arrested and thrown into jail without a charge. The song is the way I thought about that as a 10 year old guy delivering newspapers and the way that I think about that now. We tend to view history as this monolithic thing and in fact, history changes, all the time. The way I veiwed that particular historical event when I was 10 years old is much different than the way that I veiw it in my forites. This song is about the changing nature in which we view history.
James Keelaghan - October 70
Home - Appleseed
You are listening to Folk Plus, and I'm airing an interview I did last night with James Keelaghan. We spoke about border relations, popularity from other artists covering your tune and most recently history in song. When we go back to the interview Keelaghan is mentioning
Angela: Great. I was saying before, that I'd love for you to be my history teacher, but you said, I do teach history.
James: I do. We were talking about David Francey and kids singing the songs in school, my songs are in text books. They are in University text books. They have been used as cut lines in the beginning of books. I get letters from teachers all the time about using my material in class. I think that's great! I got to be a history teacher without having to be in school every day, without having to mark exams. I quite like that.
Angela: Is "My Old Man" autobiographical? (embarrisingly proving his point earlier about not reading liner notes carefully)
James: No. "My Old Man" is a song by Ewan McColl
Angela: Oh, that's a Ewan McColl song.
James: I think it is about his father. I always loved the song, and its sort of the way that I think aobut my father. My Dad is an old radical as well from the old Irish school, he fought in the Spanish Civil War, he was in Chechoslovakia in the 1948 revolution and then came to Canada and had this whole other life where he was raising kids, and never ever talked aobut those experiences. I never would have found out about them except for the fact that the first time I went over to Ireland and I was 19, I met up with Dad's brothers and sisters there were these references to when James went to Spain. I came back and finally quizzed him about it. He finally started talking aobut it. When he came to Alberta he was working in the oil fields, working for companies like Texaco and Shell and had they found out he had fought in Spain he wouldn't of had a job. So he had to keep that part of him submerged.
Angela: I don't think of you doing a lot of covers. And I didn't know that Ewan wrote that. You do an Ian Tamblyn tune...and of course, he was honored last weekend in Ottawa.
James: Yeah, and long overdue. I think Ian is one of the greatest landscape writers that Canada has ever produced. The reason that he hasn't been (widely) acknowledged for it is because he does music. He does landscape in music. Its an amazing thing to be able to pull off and he does pull it off.
Angela: If red on green
James: ...the chorus is the red on blue, and the blue on green...I can't for the life of me remember what its called. Its a song about a painter by the name of Tommy Thomson.
Angela: I'll try to find that. - [LIVE on air] Well, I couldn't find that tune, but I while I was in Canada this past weekend, Chopper McKinnon (host of CKCU's Canadian Spaces) prompted Ian to play this tune on a live broadcase of Canadian Spaces Saturday morning:
Ian Tamblyn - Tiger Lily RoadAngela: One thing I would like to know is if you could pick the next...maybe...10 songs and I could do an hour of Canadaian singers. I have a second hour ready that Cosy Sheridan picked because she was at my house last night (Thursday, October 24th Cosy played a benefit for the Liberty ALIVE group) and she sat in my living room and put together an hour (from CD's there) I thought today it would be very cool if I have an hour of her choices and an hour of yours. Most likely I'll have things you mention, I hope so.
Voice in the Wilderness - North Track Records
James: Ok. I would like the David Francey tune about sunday
I would like the Stephen Fearing's Longest Road
Do you have Nikki Mehta...gal from Winnepeg?
Angela: No, sorry.
James: Scruj MacDuhk?
James: I would like from Scruj MacDuhk "The Ramling Irishman".
Scruj MacDuhk - The Ramling IrishmanJames: I would like from Ian Tyson, Four Strong Winds if you have it anywhere, maybe the new live album.
The Road to Canso, self-release
Ian Tyson - Four Strong WindsJames: I would like "Laura Secord" by Tanglefoot, just for Canadaian history...
Ian & Sylvia, Four Strong Winds - Vangaurd Records
Tanglefoot - Secord's WarningAngela: Tiller's Folly. I just reviewed them for Sing Out and said..."take a Keelaghan plot and give it Tanglefoots' Umph and you've got Tillers Folly. Do you know them?
Music in the Wood - TangleFoot
James: No, I don't. I'd like "They are taking it away" by Ian Robb.Do you have that?
Angela: A CD of just him? Is it on the one where he does the silly Garnet song?
James: Yeah, it is on that one. And I'd like (seems to be enjoying this) what are we up to?
Angela: Gee, I don't know, this is facinating.
Ian Robb - They are taking it awayJames: I think that's six. I'd like...
From Different Angels - Fallen Angle Music
Angela: about 11 will be an hour..
James: The Joni Mitchell one off Blue, "..its coming on Christmas"
Joni Mitchell - RiverJames: I'd like "Isabella Gunn" by Eileen McGann.
Blue Album - Reprise
Eileen McGann - Fair Flower of NorthumberlandJames: "Talk Memphis" by Jesse Winchester...or anything by Jesse Winchester. If you can find Talk Memphis that would be great.
Turn It Around - CAD Vision Records
(Sorry, couldn't find Elements, the CD with his request. Having been born in Newcastle-Upon-Thyme, I'm fond of this song however.)
Jesse Winchester - That's What Makes You StrongAngela: Ok, that's super! Great. Listen thanks so much for your time....
Gentleman Of Leisure - Sugar Hill Records
James: No trouble.
Angela: James Keelaghan
(October 26th, 2002 setlist: https://folkplus.com//setlists/021026.html)