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Phil Keaggy Remains Prolific and Praiseworthy in World of Music

by Rich and Laura Lynch

I added a few items to my life-long "bucket list" soon after learning about musician and recording artist Phil Keaggy while on a trip to Israel in 1991. The mission was two-fold. The first was to acquire the albums he made at the start of his career with his band Glass Harp. The second was to see that band someday live in concert.

Master musician Phil Keaggy onstage in Bon Aqua, Tennesee.

It didn't take long for my quest to begin. On an early 90's trip to Toronto we walked into a record store on Yonge Street and there on the wall were the first two records by the famous threesome from Youngstown, Ohio. I quickly dropped around 100 Canadian for the pair but my GH collection was underway - so, it was well worth it.

I had the pleasure and opportunity to tell this tale to Phil himself directly in Bon Aqua, Tennessee in early October before his afternoon set at the eclectic and enthralling first volume of the "Storytellers Music Festival" on the beloved farm that was the property of Johnny Cash for over 30 years.

I tried to let Phil know of the many notable concerts we had seen by him over the years now numbering above 30 since our first time catching him live in 1992 at the Montclair, New Jersey High School auditorium. We also told him about that strange day in New York City when our second bucket list item was completed. All you need to know is that we spent the afternoon at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium before the concert just across the street from the now defunct BB King Blues Club. From our vantage point we could see the intriguing name on the marquee listed curiously as the "Phil Keaggy Band".

Phil Keaggy and Glass Harp rocked New York City in 2012.

After opening for himself with five songs on acoustic Phil said it was time to bring out the band. Emerging from backstage were Daniel Pecchio (bass) and John Sferra (drums) to round out the mythical trio of the Glass Harp. That night will be forever ingrained in my memory banks as it completed my double-barreled Keaggy related bucket list. But, did you know Phil apparently has a bucket list of his own?

The just released The Bucket List features the long-fabled jam sessions by Phil Keaggy and the legendary rhythm section made up of Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta. The genesis for this project dates back to Friday, January 12, 2007. We were again in attendance when Phil invited these guests to jam with him during the second half of his concert at the Calvary Temple International Assembly in Wayne, New Jersey. We haven't yet heard the new album but if that night was any indication - it's going to be good.

I can tell you that Phil's next release is astounding because he handed us a near complete demo of the recording in Bon Aqua. The 11-track hand labeled disc was marked "Phil & Rex: Time 2018" featuring half new and half re-imagined takes on previous favorites and additional rarities. By teaming up with his Tennessee neighbor Rex Schnelle, Phil has found a way to infuse his music with a modern vitality that is simply awesome as it incorporates a massive dose of prog complexity. Phil told us Schnelle "does everything" presumably by creating the bulk of the records in the studio for Phil to sing and play over.

The Bucket List featuring the Keaggy, Levin and Marotta trio is out now.

But, Schnell does much more than that as well. In fact, he shares lead & background vocals and guitar parts throughout the bold and progressive body of work that at times sounds like YES and Kansas meeting Dream Theater on the road to Damascus. The pair think outside the box on the captivating "Meet On a Bus" that just might be the most commercial sounding tune Keaggy has ever been a part of. Either way, together Phil and Rex really have found the ticket and passageway to even greater viability for Keaggy's music to reach the masses. We hope there's a return trip.

On that trip to Israel long ago I was turned on to the music of Phil Keaggy and the world of Christian music. The discovery of that genre and an actual rock in Israel resulted in my current digital offering called "Jesus Rock". I can tell you that Phil Keaggy still makes Jesus rock of the highest order and that's pretty remarkable for an artist entering his sixth decade as a professional musician.

We overheard a conversation between Phil and a pastor friend of his who had traveled to Mid Tenn from Kentucky to see the guitar master at work. Keaggy relayed the thought that he was actually glad that he hadn't become "bigger" in the world of music over the years. Sure, he may not be a household name but he is and remains one of the most critically acclaimed guitarists on the planet. By following up his stunning fan-funded album All At Once from 2016 with these next two releases it's arguable that he may have just presented the three most important recordings of his career in consecutive order - and, there's still time for him to do even more!

A glimpse at the first Keaggy, Levin and Marotta jam in 2007.

Phil Keaggy and Tony Levin get down to jamming in 2007 in New Jersey.

Related Links: For more information on PHIL KEAGGY and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Phil Keaggy | Glass Harp | Jesus Rock | Phil in Bon Aqau


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