Jez Lowe and James Keelaghan ~ 2013 October 13 ~ Woods Hole Folk Music Series ~ Woods Hole, MA and 2013 October 17 ~ Club Passim ~ Cambridge, MA
Performers: Jez Lowe (vocals, cittern, mandolin, guitar, harmonica); and James Keelaghan (vocals, guitar)
Songs written and sung by James Keelaghan are labeled with the letter "K"; songs written and sung by Jez Lowe are labeled with the letter "L"
My Blood (L. & K.) - My Skies (K.) - Old Bones (L.) - I Would I Were (K., but L. sang a verse) - A Dream of Steam & Freedom (L.) - McConville's (K.) - Haltwhistle Women (L.) - medley: Black Diamonds (L.) / Hillcrest Mine (K.) ... intermission ... Gathering Storm (K.) - The Bergen (L.) - House of Cards (K.) - Jack Common's Anthem (L.) - Cold Missouri Water (K.) - We'll Hunt Him Down (L.) - Gladys Ridge (K.) - You Can't Take It With You (L.) ... encore: (at Woods Hole) Four Strong Winds (K.; written by Ian Tyson) / (at Passim) Mirabeau Bridge (K.)
Scroll down past the videos for pictures, review, and photo gallery.
"A Dream of Steam & Freedom":
"We'll Hunt Him Down":
These two concerts were very similar, so I will review them together. The set lists were identical with the exception of a single encore song. The banter, however, was different from each show, as were the venues.
Jez Lowe is a brilliant singer/songwriter in the folk tradition from the north of England, who plays several instruments masterfully. These include cittern, mandolin, guitar and harmonica. He has written a wide range of songs, ranging from the political, to the historical, to the personal, often with a humorous element, and usually with a very singable melody. One of the highlights of Jez's portion of the shows is a new song called "We'll Hunt Him Down," a cowboy-tinged satire on the Religious Right's reaction to Charles Darwin.
Canada's James Keelaghan is more of a traditional folkie; his songs, with a few exceptions, tend to be softer and slower, and often tell a story. These two are also great friends, and their back-and-forth banter was a highlight of both shows.
For example, they have coined an expression. The expression is a "Lamarr." A "Lamarr" is defined as an unexpected talent in someone. It is named for actress Hedy Lamarr, who besides being the most beautiful actress in Hollywood, also was a mathematical genius and was the co-inventor of an early telecommunications method known as "frequency hopping."
The two singer-songwriters took turns performing their own songs, accompanying one another. However, there were two songs that were joint efforts between the two, and these two songs were highlights. First of these two was "My Blood," with which Jez and James opened the shows; this is a song co-written by the two of them, with a theme of being of Irish descent but displaced from the home country.
The other joint song was a brilliantly weird medley of two songs about coal mining: James' "Hillcrest Mine" and Jez's "Black Diamonds." James' "Hillcrest Mine" is a song about Canada's worst mining disaster, a mine explosion in 1913 that killed 189 people; Jez's "Black Diamonds" is a song about the overall terrible risks of coal mining. The medley began with a verse of James' song, immediately seguing into a verse of Jez's song, and they traded verses and sing-along choruses back and forth, until finally at the end of the song they were almost singing on top of one another.
In the Passim show, during this "Hillcrest Mine/Black Diamonds" medley, James broke a string, and kept on singing while he performed the quickest replacement of a guitar string I have ever seen. There are some pictures of this feat in the photo gallery, to the right.
The two venues at which I saw these shows are very different. The Woods Hole Folk Music series is held at a community hall in this Cape Cod seaside village, organized entirely by volunteers. The seating consists of folding chairs, and at the end of the show the audience is asked to help put away the chairs. Downstairs one will find cookies and other goodies supplied by the concertgoers themselves. Club Passim, on the other hand, is in the middle of a bustling college town, with Harvard Yard just a block away. At Passim the seating is four seats to a table, and there is an excellent food menu and servers who take orders and bring food. Both audiences were very much into both James and Jez, both audiences sang along heartily, and both audiences got their money's worth from these two talented musicians.
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