Loading Events
  • This event has passed.


November 3, 2023 @ 8:00 pm

 |  $23 – $25
Passim Logo


November 3, 2023
8:00 pm
$23 – $25
Event Category:


1 Bennett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States
(617) 395-7757


(617) 395-7757

Tickets will be on sale to the public 9/6 at noon. On sale to all Passim members 8/30 at noon.  GET THEM HERE.


James Keelaghan & David Woodhead




Contemporary folk songs, at their very best, offer an insight into the hardships, attitudes, and resolve of characters and events that shape our day-to-day lives. You can dress these songs up in inspired arrangements and intricate instrumentation but, at their very essence, the archetypal folk song is all about stories. Stories and people. Something such compelling songwriters as Eric Bogle, Si Kahn, Ewan MacColl, and Stan Rogers … all understood and mined so effectively.

James Keelaghan, too, burrows into that same rich seam with equal ability and comparable conviction. To quote Eric Bibb, the award-winning American acoustic bluesman, after listening to Keelaghan perform: “[You’re] a joy to hear, just beautiful. Reminded me of the best of the best of another time – Liam Clancy, Tom Paxton etcetera.” Less colourful but more succinct, Dave Marsh, the eminent Rolling Stone critic, simply described Keelaghan as “Canada’s finest songwriter.”

Truly, throughout a career that now spans almost four decades, the Juno and Canadian Folk Music Award winner has created a repertoire of incalculable importance – a unique body of work, either inspired by or drawn from the folk tradition. Ten solo albums flush with enduring lyrical relevance. Take the beautiful but heartbreaking ballad, Jenny Bryce, for example. From any point of view, it’s indistinguishable from the numerous traditional tracks covered on his disc A Few Simple Verses.

What’s more, various other originals from the Keelaghan cannon must surely enter the domain of traditional folklore. Most notably, Small Rebellions (highlighting the 1931 slaughter of peaceful striking miners in Bienfait, SK); Hillcrest Mine (a prelude to the worst coal mining disaster in Canadian history); Kiri’s Piano (a triumph over adversity amidst the shameful, racist treatment of Japanese-Canadians during WW II); Cold Missouri Waters (a harrowing portrait of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire in the mountains of Montana) …

A relentless musical spirit, Keelaghan has surrounded himself with a variety of crackerjack companions down through the years that have largely included the late, innovative, free-spirited fiddler and composer, Oliver Schroer, the exuberant, Chilean, Latino-fusionist guitarist, Oscar Lopez (with whom Keelaghan made two albums under the banner of Compadres), or the ubiquitous, former Spirit of the West anchor and multi-instrumentalist, Hugh MacMillan. Scrupulous audiences from Alberta to Australia bared witness to the sum of these resourceful parts.

There have been several mouth-watering collaborations in the writing department, too. Celebrated names in the folk world such as Karrine Polwart, Jez Lowe, Catherine MacLellan, David Francey, Lynn Miles, Dave Gunning, Cara Luft and J.D. Edwards … all contributed to notable Keelaghan releases.

“I love co-writing,” he says, “it’s the spark that gets me motivated – the fresh approach to a lyric or a different way of forming a melody for a song is so stimulating. Besides, it’s also a great impetus to finish the damn song.”

James Keelaghan grew up in a bungalow in northwest Calgary, AB, with six siblings, an Irish father, and an English mum. His brother Bob would develop into a noteworthy guitarist with the excellent, but now defunct, Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir. From his father, Jim, James developed a love of history. The family record collection provided further inspiration. Traditional folk LPs by the likes of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Séan Ó Riada, and Harry Belafonte certainly caught young Keelaghan’s ear. He still cites Belafonte At Carnegie Hall as a recording that changed his life at age six!

Incidentally, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy would live in Calgary in the mid-‘70s where they recorded a weekly TV show that James and his father routinely attended.

“They were stunning performers,” says James. “I can still hear aspects of Tommy Makem’s sound in my voice. He was a fabulous singer, fabulous.”

And so, another link in a storied musical chain was forged. James Keelaghan, as they say, is “a man you don’t meet every day.”


James Keelaghan & David Woodhead




Immersed in the world of independent music-making from the start, David Woodhead has had a truly wide-ranging and dynamic career, evolving a distinctive melodic and textural approach that he can mold to fit almost any situation.

You’ve probably seen David’s name listed on the backs of recordings in your collection and, yes, he’s on some 300 projects and worked with many influential artists including Perth County Conspiracy, Stan Rogers, Oliver Schroer, Gil Scott-Heron, and David Sanborn. His live gigs have included working with Malagasy guitarist Donné Roberts (a recent Juno nominee), classical-folk fusioneers Ensemble Polaris and veteran jazzers Manteca, as well as touring internationally with master songwriter James Keelaghan. David has done instruction at the Folk Alliance International conference (Kansas City), Haliburton Winter Folk Camp, the Goderich Celtic College and Ontario’s The Woods. He’s been an invited guest improvisor at Arraymusic and Casey Sokol’s improv soirées at York University, and done a Music Residency at the Banff Centre, working on music which led to his most recent Confabulation CD, Tunnels and Visions. Recently he’s been taking part in various events involving Quebecois and Balfolk (European folk dance) music, playing tenor banjo and mandolin.

His own music draws from the intimacy of the folk world, the harmonic sensibilites of jazz, and a sense of precision from classical arranging, with room for freedom in individual expression and improvisation. David’s Confabulation ensemble has a somewhat exotic and rambunctious nature, while the more recent Oriana Quartet is focused on taking a folk-jazz chamber music approach.