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James Keelaghan returns to Empress

Singer-songwriter James Keelaghan will perform Saturday, April 9 at the Empress Theatre.

VICKI ARNDT – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Juno Award winner, masterful storyteller, and internationally acclaimed musician James Keelaghan will warm the Empress Theatre stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 9 with tunes from his latest album “House of Cards.”
Keelaghan is making the Empress Theatre one of his first stops back in Canada after his U.S. tour and his only stop in Alberta south of Red Deer.
“We are thrilled to have James back at the Empress,” Empress Theatre executive director Brent Hutchinson said. “He has the ability to instantly connect with his audience, and it’s not so much a performance, but a conversation between friends.”
Keelaghan’s album “House of Cards” was released in 2009 by Borealis Records. The album quickly topped several top 10 lists.
“House of Cards” contains 10 new original songs, several co-written with other great songwriting greats from the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton.
Keelaghan will perform music from “House of Cards,” which deals with the global financial crisis, “Since You Asked” and “Twister.”
Keelaghan’s performance will also include such classics as “Cold Missouri Waters” and “Number 37.”
“Cold Missouri Waters,” the hauntingly beautiful ballad about the tragic deaths of 13 firefighters from an out-of-control forest fire in Montana is one of his favourite classics that will send shivers down your spine.
The song is told from the point of view of Wag Dodge, the leader of the ill-fated troop. He recounts the events of the Mann Gulch fire or Aug. 5, 1949 in west Montana along the Missouri River. Fifteen firefighters parachuted in on the north side of the gulch to support one solitary ground crew, opposite the fire, but they were caught when the fire suddenly exploded into a racing wall of flames that crossed the gulch.
Dodge set an escape fire and threw himself into the ashes. The fire, deprived of fuel, passed around him. All but two of the other men failed to outrun the fire.
Keelaghan deftly makes the analogy between Dodge rising from the ashes to that of the mythical phoenix. Then, like the tolling of a bell to honour the dead, he writes, “Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri waters, Thirteen crosses high above the cold Missouri shore” to mark how the Forest Service later erected 13 monuments to mark the place where each man fell.
Keelaghan intertwines a musical story with every line he sings and every line he writes. He is always in search of the next story, the next historical piece of the puzzle that fits his folk and roots music winning him acclaim from Scandinavia to Australia.
With 11 CDs under his belt, Keelaghan, a Calgary native who now calls Winnipeg home, has also worked with material like Gordon Lightfoot’s epic Canadian Railroad Trilogy interpreting it with most gripping mastery.
Keelaghan’s work is so well noted that the award winning American music critic and historian David Marsh took notice and called him “Canada’s finest songwriter.”
For tickets visit www.empresstheatre.ab.ca or call 1-800-540-9229 or 403-553-4404.

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