Art - Expressions of Love

Dr. Phil McWilliams is, to me, one of the most authentic Bhakti practitioners on the Kirtan scene. Kirtan and Bhakti Yoga were very new to me the first time I observed Phil as part of the group Bhakti Messenger. It was at the Historic Cahaba Pumping Station, maybe in 2010.  The kirtan band, whose home was Atlanta, Ga, arrived in Birmingham, AL to help celebrate the weekend of Global Mala.  I remember watching Phil, not center stage but off to the left; sitting comfortably cross-legged and cradling his guitar in his lap; chanting and singing simply, deeply, joyfully; strumming his guitar with ease; rocking out in his own space and right in the middle of his happy place.

This is the memory of Phil for me.  I didn’t know him then.  And, I never forgot.  That became my aspiration, to chant and sing with that depth, ease and happy confidence (still practicing). I came to know the practice of Bhakti Yoga through Phil. We have a growing friendship, as time and life would have it.  And, I have sweet memories of sitting in his living room where the most intimate chanting happens for any who know him.  So, I am blessed with the direct observance of a Bhakti Yoga leader in the community. No pretense; pure authentic being strengthened through the practice of Bhakti Yoga.

Chanting involves repetition of a mantra, prayer, poem, quote or whatever lifts you up to a higher place.  Sometimes I tire of the constant repetition of a mantra by other artists.  Whereas, Phil, with the Bhakta band, chanting the beloved Gayatri Mantra, seems to effortlessly navigate with wisdom and grace what can otherwise fall into a tedium of chanting (and my personal tendency toward boredom); and, he invites us, with a playful crook of the finger and signaling to come here,  into a chant dance, a journey; he rocks me, not like the Beatles, but like a trusted brother and friend; playfully, deeply and gently; rocking his sister to a place of deep peace and Bhakti.  The album evokes memories of recent journeys to the underworld and then takes me there.  When I am no longer listening with my ears, the dance, vocals, vibrations, haunting and playful instrumentals, and the chant undulate through me, as part of me, pure light and energy. Phil’s offering gives the opportunity to be placed in the middle of the Gayatri Mantra‘s energy and bathed in it.

Thank you, Phil, for sharing this work of art and heart with the world.  Deep lingering bow; a hug; and deep love.

The Bhakti Beat

“The Bhakti Beat LOVES this beautiful bhakti offering!  It’s been playing in my car nonstop for days and takes me to a deep sweet spot every time.  Truly a unique rendition of the Gayatri, delivered with the dreamy soulfulness of ‘Dr Phil’s’ inimitable vocals.  Thank you Phil!” 

emPower Music

Signs of Peace 
Artist: Phil McWilliams 
Reviewer: Levi Hammock - emPower Music

McWilliams combines sensibilities of folk, bluegrass, country, and pop into an amalgam of soothing and inspiring compositions in his Signs of Peace album. Projecting both confidence and sensitivity in his deep, compelling voice, McWilliams has some inspiring music to offer.

[. . .]

McWilliams offers a truly unique, yet conventional style. He strikes a perfect balance between the beautifully intimate and the fun, engaging sides of music, while always portraying a message of personal and universal upliftment.

Billboard Discoveries

Phil McWilliams does not make campfire music. While his sensibilities are distinctly rooted in Americana and its tradition, his output is marked by an excellent eschewing of the less-is-more approach that sometimes imbues itself into the folk wheelhouse. At times, the layers in McWilliams' music feels as if he has channeled Paul Simon's Graceland. While it's not a concrete parallel, it's the multitude of uncommon folk instruments on each of his tracks that bolsters the listening experience. Never, though, does it feel glommed on or an attempt to hide ineptitude. Each piece of music is crafted with care. Even just a surface listen to his lyrics, it is clear that he has indebted himself to his spiritual beliefs and in his songs, he finds an opportunity to express his appreciation and wonder. It's the perfect record for a listener in search of a homegrown version of divine tribute. Billboard Discoveries 

The Bhakti Beat

"Okay, so maybe you've never heard of Phil McWilliams -- we hadn't either -- but you need to know this music. He plays with the fabulous Bhakti Messenger Kirtan of Atlanta and has his own gig too. His recent album, Signs of Peace, is simply beautiful...if not your traditional kirtan. It soothed me for hours on a recent road trip -- couldn't get enough. He's playing Feb. 9 in Atlanta at a FREE concert in advance of Chantlanta, which features Krishna Das. Please check out this rising artist -- in person if you can, recorded otherwise!"