James Keelaghan Wins Songwriting Competition

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James Keelaghan has another accomplishment in an impressive career already marked by critical acclaim and accolades. The Winnipeg-based singer/songwriter placed first overall in the folk category in the U.S.A. Songwriting Competition for “Cold Missouri Waters.” While the Juno award winner should be used to such recognition, he states humbly that the victory over 120 other international entries is “kind-of cool.”

The contest - which is one of the world’s leading songwriting events - honours songwriters, composers, bands and recording artists from around the globe. Sponsored by several high profile companies such as D’Addario and Borders, it carries with it $2,000 USD worth of merchandise and cash as well as radio airplay on the nationally-syndicated show Acoustic Café . Winners are selected by a committee of music industry judges including record label publishers and producers from SONY Music and Warner/Reprise Records.

“[As Canadians] We always search for legitimacy outside our borders,” Keelaghan notes on the nature of such contests. “Sometimes that bothers me, but sometimes it validates you when you travel to other lands.”

“Cold Missouri Waters” appeared on Keelaghan’s 1995 Juno-nominated release, A Recent Future . The song typifies his love for history, singing the story of a crew of firefighters who lost their lives while battling the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana. The hauntingly beautiful song was later covered by American songwriting darlings Cry Cry Cry – featuring Dar Williams, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky.

“Having a bunch of Americans recognize you is cool,” he explains. “But it’s songwriting that’s important. It’s really about the human spirit, the audacity of the human spirit.”

Keelaghan will be heading down to Australia later this month for the Woodford Folk Festival. He will also begin the process of collecting materials for an album of traditional Irish and English ballads, which he plans to release sometime next year.

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