ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - Two folk singers in a 220-seater on a cold and windy Sunday afternoon in January usually wouldn’t generate enough interest to turn the heat on and open the doors – let alone sell tickets.
It’s not the ‘60s anymore.
But put Pictou County boy Dave Gunning on a bill with Calgary songwriting legend James Keelaghan and you’ll pack the place. In fact you might have to dig out some extra chairs like they did at King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal Jan. 14.
The place was overflowing and the crowd’s expectations from two of Canada’s premiere singer/songwriters were met – surpassed even.
King’s Theatre’s Wayne Currie introduced the duo to thunderous applause with Gunning up first followed by Keelaghan, with the pair singing together after the intermission.
Gunning started off with his newish tune They Don’t Do That No More from his newest album Lift, and while the audience loved it, the more he played the more the crowd became part of his back-and-forth banter, and backing vocals for such songs as Coal from the Train co-written with Bruce Guthro or ECMA Song of the Year in 2013 These Hands co-written with George Canyon.
And if you checked the table out in the lobby, you’d find copies of Gunning’s children’s book These Hands.
Gunning’s rural charm captivated the audience as he sang about real things, real people, and real events. Team him up with Keelaghan and it’s a recipe for tears in your eyes as they served up some of Keeleghan’s socially-conscious hit songs like Hillcrest Mine about a coal mining disaster in Frank, Alberta in 1914 killing almost 190 men. Or there was Cold Missouri Waters, a song about a team of 15 smokejumpers told from the perspective of one of the two survivors.
Gunning and Keelaghan told the stories behind the songs, joked back and forth, and sang a couple of ‘hangin’ songs’ like the good folk singers they are. And don’t forget hockey. That was on the set list.
At the end of the concert most people thought it was four o’clock. When they turned their cell phones back on it was 4:45 p.m. Two hours and 45 minutes went by like no time at all.
The ‘band’ consisted of Cape Breton musician Allie Bennett on base. Gunning remembers the first time he ever saw Bennett was in 1981 when Bennett was performing with John Allan Cameron and Stan Rogers.
The duo -- Gunning and Keelaghan -- still have a few concerts left in their Maritime tour made possible in part by the Canada 150 Performance Series.
See them at:
Jan. 18 Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre
Jan. 19 Riverview Arts Centre, Riverview NB
Jan. 21 Carleton North Theatre, Bristol, NB