~ Reading Eagle Article by Don Botch ~

Musician Rick Sky composes amid the rural beauty of Brecknock Township

The setting sun peering through the branches of a magnificent, not-quite-blooming poplar tree casts a golden aura over Rick Sky's shoulder as he welcomes a visitor outside of his Celestial Moonscapes Studio in Brecknock Township one early May evening.

Tucked into the side of a south-facing slope and cocooned by nature, the structure is home not only to Sky's recording studio, rehearsal space and collection of prized musical instruments accumulated over a lifetime, ranging from djembes to flutes to gongs to guitars, but also to Sky himself.

It's the place where he has lived out his adult life for the past 35 years, breathing in the natural world around him and breathing out the songscapes that pass through him.

On this evening, the fair-weather landscaper is eager to share the fruits of his labor of the past two winters, months filled with cold days that yielded to colder nights culminating in 60-hour workweeks spent putting together his new CD, "Light Tales," note by note, measure by measure, all by himself.

As he shows off the trifold packaging design featuring panoramic, celestial photography by Coloradan Joe Randall that he discovered online and fits his music to a T, Sky's feline friend, his patience exhausted, interjects himself into the conversation like a stealth missile fired from the ground.

"This is Comet," Sky said as the one-time stray curls in for some cuddling.

Comet? Of course it is.

After basking in a few moments' worth of affection, Comet decides to take his leave and Sky returns to the matter at hand: "Light Tales."

The CD is actually dedicated to Comet's predecessor, Bubba, Sky's studio sidekick who was 20 years old when he had to be put down last June, but not before lending his voice to the final track, "Light Zen Meow." The 10 tracks leading up to that moment of Zen share a unifying vibe that Sky characterizes as "warm, acoustic, organic."

"It is somewhat of a concept album in that I have a lot of songs that I've written, but this collection of songs wanted to be together," Sky said. "They are intimate songs about if we would reflect for love received and also love lost; for people, for a place, for any being or any thing, including the planet. That's what these songs are about."

Sky, whose grandfather started him down his musical path at a very young age and who played drums in a popular local cover band called Josh in the early '70s, struggles to come up with a label for his 21st century music, finally settling on "acoustic-based singer-songwriter," but the songs bear little resemblance to those of other artists one might associate with that genre, such as, say, Jackson Browne, one of Sky's early inspirations.

Rather, they lean toward the transcendental, with layers of soothing, moody instrumentation sometimes giving way to personal yet universal vocals, and other times not.

"This music is very relaxing, and it's meant to be," the reiki practitioner explained. "In fact, I sometimes tell people, if you fall asleep listening to it, that's OK. Then I feel like I did my job, because I try to draw people in so that they feel like they're in a place: a place of safety, a place of love and kindness. I think that's what our planet needs. That's what humanity needs, even if it's just an escape for a little bit of time. If I can do that for some people, then I'm just happy about it."

Every last note of the CD was played and/or sung by Sky, who, when asked how many instruments he owns, laughed in a way that tells you he has never had the time or inclination to count them. His attention, instead, has stayed steadfastly focused on playing them and recording the results.

The final mixes for "Light Tales" range from having as few as four layered tracks on some songs to as many as 27 on another ("Call Me Home").

Sky said recording this CD and 2010's "I'll Meet You There" has gotten him "majorly interested in fidelity and sounds and frequencies," so he tends to obsess over post-production, making countless "microchanges" until everything's just the way it ought to be.

"For me, it's like sharpening a pencil," he said, "just honing it in more and more and more."

All the while, though, he remains cognizant of the fact that he ultimately wants to play the songs live and have them sound as they do on the studio versions. Considering he's a soloist, that presents a whole new set of challenges.

"I'm a loop artist," he said, "so I can get a lot of things going. I get beats going and play against them with guitar parts and flutes and vocal stuff that I loop."

At his CD release show Friday evening at the Cafe at Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata, he'll play three handmade guitars: a six-string built by James Goodall in Hawaii, a seven string (for deeper bass runs) made by Trevor Kronbauer in British Columbia and a harp guitar (put to good use on the song "Dancing on a Comets Tail") made by Stephen Sedgwick in the U.K. The latter two, not surprisingly, were made using repurposed wood and have fascinating backstories Sky is happy to share with anyone who asks.

His musical menagerie also includes a couple of invaluable Paiste gongs - one 34 inches and the other 44 inches in diameter - that he has owned since the 1970s and had never had occasion to use on a recording until deploying the larger one to punctuate the ending to "Your Secret," track seven on the new CD.

Sky concedes that his music may lack commercial appeal in the purest sense, but he thinks it could be a perfect fit for climactic scenes in films or TV shows. But all of that is somewhat irrelevant as far as he's concerned.
"I'm not trying to follow a commercial trail with this, because I really do feel the true great musicians are the ones - and were the ones - that were channeling the truth inside of them," he said. "This is who they were as an artist. To me, I'd be hurting myself by trying to be somebody else, something that I'm not. So I'm just producing what's coming through me."

As he showed his guest out of the home he has occupied and expanded upon for decades, Sky gazed up into the dark night in search of the anticipated full moon and reflected upon being in such a good place, both literally and figuratively.

"The sereneness here, and the quietness, has helped me to develop my music," he said. "I can just be tucked away here and think and create. I feel very fortunate. I've been here a long time, and it was a long haul to get to this point, but I feel like I'm finally at a point where I can enjoy it a little more."

Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or dbotch@readingeagle.com. - See more at: http://readingeagle.com/life/article/musician-rick-sky-composes-amid-the-rural-beauty-of-brecknock-township#sthash.TlqzLSge.dpuf

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