Tag Archives: James Keelaghan

The Thursday Outlook – Sept. 14 to 18, 2017

It’s the third Bring Your Own Vinyl night at The Red Door, hosted by Tom Thwaits Saturday starting at eight.  This is a fun night. Bring your favourite LP, tell the room why you want them to hear it, and Tom plays a cut on the turntable.  It makes for a great night of oral history as everyone has a tale about their favourite cut, and the music ranges through everybody’s personal taste.

The first night, Tom even brought along an LP by Sons of Ishmael, a high school band from Meaford that established an international cult following in the eighties with their “seriously intense”  hardcore punk.  So you never know what you’ll hear.

On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 17th, James Keelaghan will be hosting the final in Summerfolk’s Music Biz Tune Up Workshop from one to three at the Suite Spots in Owen Sound.  This series, which has run through the spring and summer, has provided aspiring musicians with career guidance ranging from how to book gigs to the many ways to earn income from your music.  For this final workshop the focus will be on how to use jamming to expand your contacts within the industry.  By connecting with other musicians on a musical level, at festivals or conferences, valuable contacts and alliances can be formed.  “Learn songs by different people so you can go in a number of directions and that increases your ability to connect with people”, James suggests.  For those unable to make it this Saturday, James will be offering a shortened version of the workshop next Saturday as well.

Rob Lutes’ Mastery Charms Meaford Hall Audience

Review by Bill Monahan of Rob Lutes at Meaford Hall, April 1, 2017

Rob Lutes’ solo acoustic concert in The Gallery at Meaford Hall on Saturday night captivated the small attentive crowd.  There was total silence when he performed, except when someone whispered to the person beside them what a great lyric that was (which was fairly often), and when he conversed with the audience between songs people immediately responded with their own comments.  Most of the songs were met with whistles and loud applause that made the audience seem bigger than it was.  Rob Lutes has played to much bigger audiences around the world and those in attendance on Saturday night seemed especially privileged to have a talent of this calibre playing just for us.

For me it evoked the favourite days of my youth when coffee houses were everywhere and there were a lot of people playing this style of what we then called (and I guess still do) folk music.  In reality, the music of Rob Lutes and of many of those folk singers in the 60’s coffee houses is solidly based in the early acoustic jazz and blues of the great black musicians of the thirties.  It wasn’t really folk music, it was great pop music from a bygone era and another culture just being discovered by the white baby boomers for the first time.  Rob Lutes has that guitar style, the high steppin’ Cakewalk ragtime style that was once heard only in the all-black entertainment spots.  And his voice is in that area as well, with a bit of raw whiskey-soaked blues flavouring to it.  That was all so new and exciting to us kids back in the pre-Beatles early sixties.  While most performers then reproduced the old sounds as authentically as they could, a few would try their own compositions framed within that sound.  But the talents of our big heroes back then, Dave Van Ronk, the Jim Kewskin Jug Band, Tom Paxton, and others would have been blown clear out of the water if Rob Lutes had been on the scene.

If you listened to the cadence, the rhythm and the sound of Rob Lutes you might think it was just like the music we listened to back then.  But Rob Lutes’ songs are on a whole other level.

He is a master of what Flaubert called “le mot juste”, placing exactly the right word in the exactly the right place.  His songs have a lot of words and a lot of rhythmic lyrical phrases tightly wrapped up in internal rhymes.  They go by so fast that you find yourself missing a line because you are still cogitating on the last line.  Because they are more than very clever word smithing; they are ideas for living by.

When I read a book by a very good writer I sometimes pause to read a line or section over again because it is so well expressed.  I found myself wishing I could do that with his songs.  I once had a daytimer that had an aphorism at the top of each page to inspire your day.  It occurred to me that you could probably do that with lyrics from Rob Lutes’ songs.

“When our lives are uninspired we’ll book the next best thing for hire”

“If you run long enough you’re going to run into yourself”

“Forgiveness will soothe you, it will almost make you feel brand new”

I’m sure there were 362 more phrases like that in the two sets of songs we heard.

Some of his songs were inspired by aphorisms that he picked up from others, which he didn’t hesitate to admit.  When he heard, from a podcast, the phrase, “Forgiveness means giving up hope of a better past” he was inspired to expand that idea into a song full of insights.  The old Robert Johnson song “The Red Hot” contains the lines “I know a girl that’s long and tall, she sleeps in the kitchen with her feet in the hall”.  Those lines have been since appropriated by jug bands and western swing bands and all kinds of folkies without ever crediting the source, but Rob took the time to play part of the Robert Johnson classic before performing his own extrapolation of the idea.  His song “I Know A Girl” consists of a score of tiny verses, each of which starts with “I know a…” and offers a tiny gem of insight that, taken altogether, presents a comprehensive catalogue of human behaviour.

At one point he told a story about being at a gathering of folk singers who each tried to outdo the other by singing the saddest possible song (the winner, apparently, was Summerfolk’s artistic director, James Keelaghan).  Rob offered up his own sad song, “Throw Me From This Train”, which, though sad, probably wouldn’t have taken the prize as the saddest.  The thing about Rob Lutes’ music is that sadness seems entirely tangential to his world view.  He see beauty and grace in the world around him and even when he sings the blues it seems merely wistful.  As a result the experience of seeing him in concert leaves you feeling uplifted and optimistic about the world, as well as greatly impressed.

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Irish Mythen Presented by Summerfolk

James Keelaghan, musical director of Summerfolk, has written about Irish Mythen:

“Irish is a powerhouse. If you combined the output of every generating station in North America, it would still not come close to matching the energy in her voice. It’s a voice built to silence a Dublin pub.

I have rarely seen a performer more in command of herself or her audience. The darkness of some of the material is tempered by a between-song personality marked by deep humour and a sharp, quick wit.”


Summerfolk is sponsoring Irish Mythen in concert this Saturday at the Harmony Centre in Owen Sound.  For fans of authentic folk music, of stirring songwriting, or of performers who honestly and powerfully engage their audience, this is a special occasion.

Originally from County Wexford in Ireland, Irish Mythen is now one of Prince Edward Islands most valuable exports, travelling the world to mesmerize audiences with her powerhouse vocals and engaging stories.  She told Jim Day of The Guardian in Charlottetown, “I like to look for the person who maybe came here because his girlfriend wanted to…that’s the person who I want to have to go out (after the show) and go ‘wow. If I don’t leave everything on stage, I’m not happy with what I’ve done.’’

To listen to, browse and buy albums by Irish Mythen on iTunes, click on the album cover.

She has spent most of this year touring Australia in which she tallied “92 days away, 54 performances, 36 broken guitar strings and 10,751 km in a vehicle.”  She encountered legions of fans who were familiar with her material and at one festival caused a traffic jam when more people wanted to see her than the roads could accommodate.  After several triumphant shows she was asked to return to Australia to open a national tour for rock star Melissa Etheridge.

From her original training at the “original rock school’’ in Ballyfermot, she travelled the world, performing in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Ireland,the U.K.,the Middle East and Australia. According to Jim Day, “A tattoo on her left arm records in Roman numerals the date June 6, 2006, marking when she first came to Canada to play the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, N.S.”  She settled in New Brunswick in 2009, before eventually making her home in P.E.I.

Her shows are legendary as reported by LastFM: “A true entertainer who is known as being a triple threat, her show highlights her various talents – the proficient and talented metaphorical singer-songwriter, the storyteller who’ll grasp your attention and who has the ability to bring you on an incredible and emotional journey as well as the comedian with a joie de vivre who’ll have you laughing from the very beginning until long after the end of her show.”

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