Reconnecting with ... Phil Keaggy

Legendary guitarist Phil Keaggy is currently in his 42nd year of recording, 38 of which have been in the Christian music community encompassing countless vocal and instrumental releases.

Though it would seem odd to celebrate one of those in-between anniversaries, the famed guitar slinger is honoring a more round 30-year milestone this season by presenting 1978’s wordless The Master and The Musician on tour in its entirety. The classic collection of songs was highly experimental at the time (combining English and Celtic folk, rock, jazz and neo-classical influences) and is currently being recreated with seven additional musicians spanning string, percussion and reed instruments.

“Everyone seems to like it quite a lot,” says Keaggy from the road of the lauded recording. “There’s really nothing out there like it, and even 30 years ago, it was never done to fit in with the trends of the times—Christian or otherwise. Some people say it’s timeless, and it’s transported a lot of listeners back to the memories of when they first heard it. And those who are hearing it for the first time are really enjoying it, probably because we as a band are having such a great time doing the music together.”

Beyond unveiling the entire album, the switch hitter promises a handful of vocal hits and possibly a preview of his next like-minded studio project. In addition to Keaggy’s signature licks, the late 2008 release, Meet Clarence Oddbody, will also be billed as a full-length collaboration with fellow luminary Randy Stonehill.  “I’ve had people tell me, ‘It’s the best of you and the best of Randy all put into one’,” he contends. “Every song is as up as it can be with electric guitars, good harmonies and really clever lyrics. It’s mastered by Richard Dodd, who’s worked with George Harrison and The Traveling Wilburys [Harrison’s band with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne], and he really liked it as well!”

Of course that comes as no surprise since Keaggy’s one of the most celebrated musicians in the Christian and mainstream markets alike by both fans and critics, while also scoring accolades like a GRAMMY nomination, seven Dove Awards and a 2007 induction into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Yet, his most cherished memories aren’t derived from positive press or a full trophy case, but rather some of the performances along the esteemed ride.

“I’ll never forget the first and last time I played Carnegie Hall with Glass Harp,” he recalls. “The first was when Glass Harp opened for The Kinks boldly singing about the Lord, and the last was for a post 9/11 benefit. Another highlight for me was performing at the wedding of Linda McCartney’s sister and getting to jam with Paul McCartney. It was so cool to let him see how Christians can really celebrate, and it was a pretty cool event. My wedding was also a highlight, which has to do with music because I sang to my wife. Marrying her and having our children is the highlight in my life.”

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©2008  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

*This interview first published on June 25, 2008.