A while back, Burfit discovered James Keelaghan on a Martin Pearson & John Thompson album, recorded live at Woodford in 2002. James Keelaghan sang a beautiful song called “Love What a Road” (you can download it here if you’re interested – scroll down to the first green table and it’s fourth from the bottom, listed as “Road”) and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t pay much attention on my first few listens. Anyway, when we were in Vancouver, Burf decided to buy the album that features “Love What a Road” and still I didn’t take much notice – I sort assumed it wouldn’t be ‘my sort of thing’. I suppose it’s sort of folk/country/bluegrass if you want to catagorise it. The kind of music I always imagined boring, old hippies listen to.
I’m not sure what changed my mind, but a couple of weeks ago I finally gave the album some attention and I was captivated. The song that got me in is called “Who Dies?”. Don’t let the title mislead you, it’s a very cheery, catchy (dare I say, rollicking?) tune .
First few lines: A nephew once asked me when he was quite young / who dies? / I said, everyone dies / no use denying it / one day you’re gone / oh, everyone dies.
A great, life-affirming song. (Really!)
Another track worth mentioning is “Captain Torres”.
From the album liner notes: One evening in December 1989 the freighter Captain Torres was foundering in the Cabot Strait in heavy seas and high winds. Knowing there was no hope of rescue because of the severity of the storm, and that chances for survival were slim to none, the crew lined up in the radio room and each crew member phoned home to say goodbye. There were no survivors. For a more complete telling of the story, see Silver Donald Cameron’s book Wind, Whales, and Whiskey, pgs 132-135.
“La mer ne pardonne pas,” The sea is unforgiving.”
If I hadn’t been on the noisy bus, the lyrics wouldn’t have been so obscured.
And if the lyrics hadn’t been so obscured, I would have wept and wept.*
This song is poignant, powerful and heart-breakingly beautiful. It’s pointless trying to pull yourself together when a song rips out your heart. Just let it go, I say.
When I first discover a great song/album, I tend to listen to it obsessively until it gets under my skin. I want to learn the words, the chord changes, all the nuances. In my experience, a truly great album will keep giving up secret layers of counter-melodies, textures and meanings that the first few hundred listens don’t reveal. And I suspect that’s what this album (and others, yet unpurchased) will give me. I’m still quite near the beginning of my love affair with James Keelaghan.
*Wept is one of those words that, when repeated a few times aloud, loses its meaning almost instantly. Just like ‘lunch’, don’t you think?