Hailing from Canada James Keelaghan releases his 11th studio album ‘House of Cards’, on October 13th. Highly regarded in his homeland having won a Juno award (Canada’s version of the Grammy’s) for previous work Keelaghan’s music is in the genre of folk and easy listening. His early influences include Irish Traditional music and Paul Brady!
The songs on ‘Houses Of Cards’ are stories of relationships, tragic loss and even the weather. The album opens with ‘Safe Home’, a song which tells the story of being away from home and describing the journey along with how he imagines the person left behind will be dealing with his absence. While it has a nice melody and good lyrics as an opening song this comes across as a little weak and may fail to capture listeners as well as an opening song should. It would have being better placed in the middle of the album with a more up tempo song as the first track.
A more suitable opening song would be song four, the title track ‘House of Cards’. This is a much more upbeat song which tells the story of how people enjoy the good times of economic stability but don’t really plan for times of recession and that while people may be wealthy they won’t necessarily be wise. It has a melody that is easy to sing along to after only a couple of listens and there is some also some great guitar playing during this song which also makes good use of wind instruments.
Perhaps the best song on the album is ‘McConvilles’. An excellent story with an excellent melody this song is on par with both Kenny Roger’s ‘Coward of the County’ and Collin Raye’s ‘Love Me’. It tells the story of a barman working in McConvilles pub where there is a whiskey brewed and the owner has a rule that the bottle can never leave the bar. The barman speaks about a man named Jimmy who started drinking there six or seven years ago but died three days previous. After the funeral he announces that he will do something that has never being done before and that he will give a bottle of whiskey to the highest bidder to raise money for Jimmy’s family. The bidding stops at £500 where Jimmy’s workmates hand over their pay-packets and then he hands over the whiskey. As he is walking home past the graveyard he can hear singing with Jimmy’s friends pouring something on the grave to help him on his way. The song opens and closes with the barman describing the pub and where to find it. Keelaghan sings this song is a slow easy tone that fits in perfect with the tone of the story, while playing an acoustic guitar. It is sublime simplicity that can only work on a ballad of this kind.
Another notable song on the album is ‘Twister’ which is at first listen seems to be a bizarre song about the weather but on closer inspection is about how like in a twister opposites don’t attract and that the same can apply in relationships. Like ‘House of Cards’ this song is upbeat with great melodies that after a few listens one will find themselves singing along to.
Looking at the album as a whole and leaving the first song placement aside, it is fair to say that it is evenly balanced and Keelaghan has as a rule linked songs together well and it is an album that flows nicely along. It would appeal to anyone into folk/easy/acoustic music. Artists of comparison would include the aforementioned Collin Raye and John Denver and also his early influence Paul Brady.
Album Rating: 7.5/10