James Keelaghan (born October 28, 1959) is a Canadian folk singer-songwriter. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Keelaghan is now based in Perth, Ontario. Many of the lyrics in his songs display a concern about social problems and justice in society. Examples of such themes include "Kiri's Piano", about the internment of Japanese Canadians, and "October 70", about the FLQ crisis, inspired by events and figures in Canadian history. Some of his songs concern tragic historical events, such as "Fires of Calais," about the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation of Allied troops during World War II, and "Cold Missouri Waters," about the Mann Gulch fire of 1949. Keelaghan's lilting baritone voice, driving rhythm guitar, and a sense of scene and narrative result in his ability to bridge traditional folk music with roots revival and Celtic music.
Keelaghan studied history at the University of Calgary and two of his influences there were Drs. Margaret J. Osler and Sheldon Silverman. With an international following in Australia and England, Keelaghan plays a wide variety of venues from large festivals and concert halls to intimate folk clubs venues and often invites the audience for a beer after his performance.
In 2003, Keelaghan won first prize (Folk Category) of the 8th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. In 1994, he was the recipient of a Juno Award.
His song "Cold Missouri Waters" was covered by the band Cry Cry Cry in 1998. His songs have also included some by famed folk musicians. They include Roy Bailley and Garnet Rogers.
Frequent guest musicians on his albums include Stephen Fearing, Oscar Lopez and Hugh McMillan of Spirit of the West. His latest CD, House of Cards (2009), produced by James Keelaghan, is a collection of ten new original songs, some co-written with Karine Polwart, David Francey and others. The cd has been receiving critical praise both in Canada and abroad.