There are few instrumental albums in the Christian music genre. And there are fewer artists that have the ability to pull off a variety of styles from one instrumental album to the next, and a wide range of styles from one vocal album to the next. Still, his overall style is unmistakable. This is the eclectic and artistic skill of Phil Keaggy, someone who has not had formal musical training and cannot even read music. Yet he is considered one of the most respected guitarists of our time (by both Christian and secular audiences) and one of the most successful Christian pop/rock artists of the 20th Century.
Here, “The Wind and the Wheat” brings together a soft, smooth sound that makes you feel like you’re soaking in either a cool Spring day or a warm Fall afternoon even though you might be the middle of a cold, hard winter. His musical expertise is in full swing here, although he is not one to show it off (much). He’s often a bit subtle with his prowess, not like others who play fast and furious. He tends to play rather more softly and skillfully and with a trick or two up his sleeve (like playing in various tunings or using more than one capo at a time). In concert, he often kids that a particularly difficult song requires all nine fingers (yes, he is missing half of a finger on his right (picking) hand, to boot).
The eclectic nature of his artistry and apparent personal musical tastes is evident when this was released in 1987. He had a number of contemporary Christian/Christian rock vocal albums, and the previous album in 1986 was a soft, acoustic tribute to his family called, “Way Back Home.” This is Keaggy’s second instrumental album, released nearly a decade after his first (The Master and the Musician) and four years before his third (which will be reviewed here later). This is the only one that takes on a jazzy feel, whereas the first was a mix of classical and contemporary, and the third was clearly in the vein of ‘new-age’ (can there be such a thing as ‘Christian New Age?’). He has gone on to produce several more instrumental albums throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. But out of all of them, this one stands out. Not necessarily because it’s the most skilled, but perhaps because of the way it makes you feel.