Part of my conversion to Christianity as a young adult was a strange period of renegotiating my past. Our family was pretty poor, with painted chipboard floors, 3rd gen hand-me-down clothes, and glassware stolen from A&W. Despite our poverty, my parents always had a great stereo system and a stellar record collection. Although I don’t remember any new records ever coming into our house, we had just about everything we could imagine up through the rock of the 70s. In this way I was brought up right.
All of this was lost in a fire, so my late teens was partly occupied with an attempt to backfill my music collection. This meant walking down the street with friends and suddenly disappearing from the pack as I slipped into Sam the Record Man. I would emerge later with Eric Clapton or Cat Stevens in my hand, still buying cassettes because I was driving a battered 1985 VW Golf on its last legs. Sometimes my friends would struggle to find the link in my music choices as I loved classic rock, heavy metal, folk music, bluegrass, acapella and rap (though I’m certain that rap didn’t come from my parents).
One of these musical finds was Phil Keaggy. I knew nothing about Phil Keaggy’s late 60s, early 70s critically acclaimed band, Glass Harp. All I knew was what I heard on the tape: strong lyric writing with gorgeous vocals layered on top of some of the best guitar work I had ever heard. I had started being introduced to some Contemporary Christian Music by this time, and although I had a lot of fun in those CCM days, the songwriting was a little thin and the intellectual content of the poetry was even thinner.
Not with Phil Keaggy. He had all the goods and I picked up every cassette or CD I could afford. I knew this was a guy drawing from deep, deep wells, and he had the goods to pour it out into music. I once heard that Eddie Van Halen was asked by a late night show host, “What’s it like being the best guitarist in the world?” and Eddie Van Halen answered, “Ask Phil Keaggy.” I’ve heard the same story about Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, so I doubt it is anything more than an urban legend. But I’ve heard a lot of great guitarists over the years, and Keaggy’s four-fingered stylings are still some of the best I’ve ever heard.
Recently someone shared a podcast on facebook that I had never heard of. “In the Corner Back by the Woodpile” is a great arts and culture podcast, well produced by someone with a great voice chatting up guests in an easy environment. Hearing that Phil Keaggy was interviewed, I decided to take a listen, and was pleased to hear how much the podcast was about Keaggy’s reading of C.S. Lewis. If you are a fan of good music and want to hear the songwriting process from the inside, take a listen to this podcast here.
In the Corner Back by the Woodpile is an interview podcast produced by host Spun Counterguy and available on Podbean, iTunes and The Brophisticate. Though covering a wide range of subject matters, reoccurring topics include 1980’s pop culture, American history and politics, philosophical and theological debate, the history and current events of China, vintage record collecting, etc.
Spun Counterguy has worn many hats over the years, including that of a DJ, social worker, teacher and video producer. He currently resides with his family in Kentucky where he teaches English and Chinese while pursuing his masters in American history.
Keaggy’s just a name to me.
I like acoustic blues (from Son House to John Fahey). What’s a good bet in Keaggy’s catalog?
Great question Dale, but that’s not how I’ve done it. My old tapes are packed away and without name or meaning to me. I always listened to his whole albums and not individual songs. I prefer the acoustic stuff but he does some electric blues somewhere. I just listen on spotify or youtube now so don’t know the names. Sorry.
The new album is streaming.
Thanks for sharing this lead. I’ll be listening to the podcast as soon as I finish this note.
We have love Keaggy’s music since those vinyls were originally released… well, since the 70s, anyway.
Great interview and music! It reminds of Bruce Cockburn’s songs, and Brooks Williams’s with “All that is gold does not glitter” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2HdmWIXJco)
Thanks Hannah, I thought it was a great interview and well done.
I’m Canadian, so we know about Bruce Cockburn! I love his work. Actually, one of my favourite Bruce performances is his Mark Heard tribute.
Thanks for the link. I didn’t know Brooks Williams.
Yes, I knew that he is Canadian, so wondered of you would know him!
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Oh wow, the great Phil Keaggy. He was the first person I ever saw in concert doing a loop – recording something live, playing it and recording another layer over top, etc. What a fantastic musician. I took my kids to see him and Randy Stonehill playing together in Edmonton a few years ago and they were totally blown away. Pretty good for an old guy, huh. Will definitely have a listen to the podcast, thanks for pointing it out.
And I see you mention the great Mark Heard in your comments. You and I are definitely kindred spirits in many ways, Brenton! 🙂
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Ah, very cool. I have never seen Phil Keaggy. I did see Randy Stonehill once–we brought him in for a short set. I have seen Rob Bell and Jacob Moon, though–Canadian fellows in that tradition.
Would have loved to have seen Mark Heard.
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