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(McCain and Co.) – When legendary Gospel Music Hall of Famer and guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy joined forces with multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Rex Paul to release their transcendent new rock album, Illumination, fans knew it was something special.

Now, respected faith music resource UTR Media has joined a growing number of media reviewers by declaring Illumination one of the Best Albums of 2019 (So Far), citing the duo’s “killer production and an unabashed loved for tight, polished, classic rock.”

Illumination joins a plethora of chart toppers and fan favorites on UTR Media’s combined list of Best Albums & Songs of 2019 (So Far), including projects by Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars), Martin Smith (formerly of Delirious?), Kirk Franklin, Mike Mains & The Branches, Judah & The Lion, Cindy Morgan, Hillsong United, and others. The list also highlights songs by Switchfoot, T Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Sufjan Stevens, Kevin Max, and more. For a complete list, visit utrmedia.org/2019a.

“I want to express my thanks to the folks at UTR for listening to our new release, Illumination,” says Keaggy. “I also wish to thank Rex Paul for collaborating with me and producing a project that has gained the attention of your ears and hearts! Many thanks also goes to McCain and Co. Public Relations for bringing our project to a wider listening audience. I’m grateful!”

“We are so honored to have Illumination included on UTR’s list of the best so far of 2019. We are in some great company!” say Rex Paul. “Many thanks to David Trout and staff for the recognition and affirmation! Love the comments about the production–so charged up to be appreciated like that from such astute Christian listeners and reviewers helping people connect music to their soul!”

UTR Media’s accolades join a growing stream of positive industry reviews, including Robert Berman of Christian Musician Magazine, who calls Illumination “…a supremely catchy arena rock/pop album recalling the ’80s heyday of Survivor and Foreigner.”

Writing for Sight Magazine in Australia, reviewer Marcis Cheong declares, “Illumination is a fusion of the skill, experience and faith of these two artists and the result is enlightening.”

Bert Saraco, writing for The Phantom Tollbooth, says, “Illumination puts virtuosity in the context of relatable songs–songs that reflect the artists’ hearts as much as their technical chops in a progressive pop format…. There’s a freshness, an energy, a momentum, and an enthusiasm…. Don’t let Illumination escape you–seek it out and enjoy a fresh cross-pollination of the classic and the new.”

Reviewer Kevin Belmonte notes, “Some albums convey a special feeling, an atmosphere, that listeners want to experience again and again. Some recordings sound better each playing through, with more to discover. Illumination is just that kind of album.”

“Illumination is art that encourages and refreshes us,” declares Rex Paul. “There is an urgency to the music; it’s aggressive in a good way. It’s rock, but a special amalgam of classic, modern, and progressive rock. I think it harks back to the halcyon days of the Jesus Movement, when artists made the music they loved and imbued it with the message and style they believed in, without feeling the constraint to fit into some narrowly defined marketing agenda.”

“It’s like a triple shot of espresso,” Phil Keaggy quips. “It’s mature, but it sounds young. I think it will satisfy fans of prog rock, classic rock, and just plain old rock ‘n’ roll.”
Masters of their crafts, (R to L) Phil Keaggy and Rex Paul offer tag-team guitar riffs and vocals on Illumination, a project critics are hailing as fresh, chock full of energy, momentum, and enthusiasm. (Ian Keaggy photo)

“Don’t Hold Back,” the project’s opening salvo, serves as a vision statement of sorts for the entire album, as neither Keaggy nor Paul hold back. Thudding drums, tasty electric guitar licks, and passionate vocals underscore the song’s in your face message of living life to the full by not holding back. “Calling Us Home” showcases the duo’s playful tag-team guitar artistry, and exudes a joyful, arena rock vibe. Then, Keaggy newcomers (and long-time fans as well) are treated to the thrill of a juicy, reimagined rendition of the Phil Keaggy classic, “Time.” “Nothing Can Separate Us” boasts a McCartney-esque vocal vibe, undergirded by a bed of electric guitars and prog-rock sensibilities reminiscent of classic Yes.

“Glorify Your Name” is a straight up rock ‘n’ roll declaration of faith, while “Let Everything Else Go” ventures into sweet acoustic piano ballad territory. “I Believe” gives Keaggy and Paul the opportunity to riff off of each other in a song that had its origins in 1971 during Keaggy’s Glass Harp days. “Spend My Life With You” is another re-make of a Keaggy classic, and the addition of Rex Paul’s artistry makes it sound better than ever. Paul takes lead vocals on “You Never Know,” a smoldering rocker that encourages listeners to be engaged with life, because “You never know who you’ll meet on a bus.”

“Full Circle” is another Keaggy classic that gets a breath of fresh air, before the groove-oriented rocker, “The Day of the Lord,” closes the album.

In addition to the digital release, Keaggy and Paul are also prepping the release of a 8-song vinyl LP limited edition of Illumination. A release date for the vinyl album will be announced soon.

With more than 50 solo albums released over a remarkable four-decade career, Keaggy is one of the most beloved and accomplished guitarists of the century. His incredible talent, combined with a relentless work ethic and unbounded innovations on the guitar, continues to create new fans while keeping his legion of existing fans clamoring for more.

Rex Paul is equally prolific, working behind the scenes as a multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, studio musician, songwriter, and producer. He has produced or played on over 3,000 recordings, including tracks with Jon Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, Jerry Reed, Jim Brickman, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Brooks and Dunn, Olivia Newton John, Randy Bachmann (Bachmann Turner Overdrive), Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees), and a host of other writers and performers.

To purchase Illumination, visit philkeaggy.com/store or your favorite online music retailer.