However, when I first listened to WaterSky, I wondered where the guitars were. Half this duo is one of the greatest guitar players in the world, and I could barely hear what was happening. Sure there were some nice arpeggios and tender effects, but where was the skilled fretwork?
Then I adjusted my chair and found better speakers, and the effect was like getting new ears. Keaggy does play some awesome guitar here, meshing a little better with Johnson's keyboard to create a smoother palette, one suitable for meditation or one's own pursuit of the holy and/or the artistic.
Another fine element to this musical panorama is the percussion and vocal work of keyboardist Jeff Johnson. WaterSky may seem at first to be minimalist with its percussion, but careful listening reveals a sense of a heartbeat in the wilderness waiting on the voice of God.
"When We Were Young" opens the disc with a gentle keyboard melody reminiscent of the No Shadow of Turning, Similtudes, and Born of Water days. Keaggy's guitar on this and other songs reminded me of the classic Wind in the Wheat album. "To Somewhere Else" and the title track follow in these footsteps, segueing wonderfully to create an impression not so much of the ending of one song and the beginning of another, but that attention has been refocused as the undercurrent of spiritual longing remains the same.
Songs like "Air and Light" and "Thermal Dance" are among those where Keaggy's acoustic guitar might seem overshadowed. However, the playing here is more a second layer of beauty, like walking in the woods one way to enjoy the sunrise, only to walk back and take in the sunset.
Two of my favorite songs on this project are "When Cicadas Marched" and "The Cody Incident." In the former, Keaggy plays a unique sounding instrument called a cumbus. On the latter, the duo plays like two haiku masters, bouncing the sharpened melodies off each other in a tune that feels both structured and improvised. Both also change the tune and tempo, like soundtracks for the listener's inner narrative.
"Waltzing By Moonlight" wonderfully closes this set of what I can only call communion songs. Listeners are invited to make their connections to the Creator or the creative force as they understand it, to be still and let the heart and mind do its work or be worked on. WaterSky is not so much a follow up to Frio Suite as it is a sequel for the spirit.