FARMINGTON – Local bluegrass musician and songwriter Stan Keach was a 2022 finalist for the Songs for Social Change contest. Keach, who is in the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, and his wife, Liz, co-wrote a song called, “A Women’s World Too,” a bluegrass tune with lyrics about gender equality.
“We very much believe in the cause of equality, for women or whoever else is not completely equal,” Keach said. The winning song can be seen on Keach’s Youtube channel
The Songs for Social Change contest is put on by Renaissance Artists and Writers Association (RAWA), an international organization with roots in 1950s India. According to the RAWA website, the goal of the contest is to find “the next ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ or ‘Imagine.’” Unlike most song contests, this one considers performance along with lyrics and music.
Each year, ten finalists are chosen to be featured on an album that can be accessed through the Historically, the winners have come from all kinds of genres, from rap and techno pop to folk and bluegrass like Keach.
Both Keaches were once members of the local band Sandy River Ramblers who play often throughout Franklin County. Keach is the bandleader and has been for over 40 years. Liz was a band member for over 30 years and although now she is semi-retired from music, she often fills in for other members, helps out with promotion and sound for the band, and co-writes songs with her husband. The band’s other members include local music teacher Brendan Hickey, and Julie Davenport, who performed the winning song for the contest. Along with being a bass player and vocalist, Davenport is a state forester and runs a farm in Leeds.
“We wrote the song a lot with Julie’s voice in mind,” Keach said. “t was very important to Liz and me that we got Julie, our favorite singer, to sing the song, and it was also important that Bob Colwell did such a great job engineering the recording as well as playing great piano, bass guitar, and guitar on it.”
RAWA hosts a yearly online event to celebrate the contest winners and showcase the songs. Given the choice to virtually perform the song live or play a video, Keach and Davenport chose to record Davenport’s performance of the song for the event in order to do the music justice. They worked alongside Andre Cormier from Mt. Blue TV to film a lip-synced video of the song.
This isn’t the first contest Keach has won. In 2017, he won the Maine Songwriters Association Songwriting Contest and he has won the Podunk Bluegrass Festival’s songwriting contest in Connecticut twice, including this past year. Songs he has written have been recorded by many well-known bluegrass musicians around the country, including one that was a national top ten bluegrass single in 2010.
Keach, who has lived in the Farmington area since 1981, has taken a course at the University of Maine Farmington every semester for the past eight years. He mainly takes classes in the technological arts, with the focus on video making. Keach makes and posts videos on his Youtube channel, and incorporates comic style drawings into some of his music videos.
Keach is currently working on a streamable TV show project in conjunction with MBTV, which will be released this spring or summer. “Trail Songs” will feature musicians such as Keach and Davenport singing together in an effort to encourage people to unplug while they explore the wilderness, instead singing about the nature that surrounds them.
“There aren’t that many songs floating around about being in the wild and wildlife,” Keach said. “So this is a show that will let people hear and, if they want to, learn some songs they can sing around the campfire or even walking down the trail or paddling in the water.”
Lyrics will be available so viewers can sing along and take what they’ve learned with them on their next adventures. The show will feature guests including Canadian folk singer Eileen McGann.
Find more about Keach and his music on his Facebook page or the Sandy River Ramblers Facebook page.