“All At Once” by Phil Keaggy a blues and pop triumph

A hitherto believed impossibility has recently stunned many in the recorded music industry. Last year, catalog releases, catalog in this instance defined as releases more than eighteen months old, for the first time outsold new releases. And not by a small amount: over four million more catalog releases were purchased than the latest, and apparently considered to be something other than greatest, new music to hit the CD racks and download sites. The primary reason for this is older music fans being far more conditioned, therefore far more likely, to value music as a commodity than millennials. Thus, baby boomers and Generation Xers alike are much more likely to buy music than millennials, said demographic content with streaming whatever strikes their fancy today and tossing it aside tomorrow.

With increasing frequency, veteran artists are simultaneously taking advantage of their music’s cherished status, and freeing themselves from all music industry commerciality standards, by going directly to their fan base via social media to fund their next project through different sites. Master guitarist Phil Keaggy, who for four decades has thrilled audiences with his liquid fire playing and ofttimes gentle melodic rock/pop tunesmithing, has taken advantage of this by turning to his fans to in essence pre-buy his latest release, entitled All At Once. Those who did have been richly rewarded.

Keaggy is one of the rare breed of artists who is at his or her absolute best when completely left to his or her own devices. Freed by his fans to make an album strictly for his fans, Keaggy fully taps into his two main strengths, namely melodic blues and McCartneyesque pop, and cuts loose with all the glee of a youth finally able to crank up his or her stereo because his or her parents are out of the house. In a lesser artist’s hands this could lead to self-indulgent slop, but Keaggy sails though with nary a hiccup. Be it the full in the face delicious bluesy smack of “Mercy,” the pure pop wistfulness of the title track, or many points in-between Keaggy makes pure magic happen. He easily slides between clear gospel and fun love song lyrics, everything marvelously tied together by his guitar work mixing breathtaking cascading runs at near inhuman speed with soulful stinging licks blessed with angelic power.

A few days ago, a review of The Union of Sinners and Saints debut CD mentioned a song included therein titled “Old Guys Rule.” In Keaggy’s case, old guys not only rule, they demonstrate an ability to burn the frets off a guitar with skill and purpose most every other musician on the planet can only dream of approaching. All At Once is an exhilarating, tuneful, soulful thrill ride.