A mix of virtuoso musicianship and original songwriting that plays as well in a hipster coffeehouse as it does in a small town concert hall.Larry Groce, Mountain Stage
Every Tuesday evening since early 2013, Blue Yonder, a trio of nationally-known musicians representing diverse strands of Americana musical traditions, has given people in a small Charleston, WV, venue a soul-cleansing way to connect with themselves and each other.
With the February 2018 release of their new recording “Rough and Ready Heart,” Blue Yonder plans to bring this same experience to new audiences in similarly intimate settings beyond their home state of West Virginia. Anchored in compelling grooves of classic country, rockabilly, swing and folk music, the band presents original songs about “living, loving and losing along life’s backroads and highways” that people from all walks of life can relate to.
Recorded at Echo Mountain studios in Asheville, NC, “Rough and Ready Heart” introduces listeners to characters dealing with life and death, love and loss, memories and aspirations – with stories set to a pleasing arc of Americana styles ranging from barn-burning rockers to gentle waltzes to mournful ballads to inspirational anthems. The band’s debut recording, “Bittersweet Road,” features all original songs and reached #2 on the Freeform American Roots radio chart in late 2013.
“My songs tell stories that anyone who’s been in relationships or set out on a road trip can relate to, no matter where they come from,” says John Lilly, Blue Yonder’s national award-winning and internationally-traveled, performing songwriter. “It’s been great to be able to work in my home town with guys who appreciate playing mostly original music, and to share that music every week with our regulars, who keep coming back to hear new material.”
Blue Yonder guitarist Robert Shafer, noting the many styles of Lilly’s songwriting, appreciates that “with Blue Yonder I can stretch out more than I can with most bands.” One of few to win the prestigious Winfield Walnut Valley national flat-picking contest more than once, Shafer is also known as a “spectacular rockabilly guitarist who also brings swing and bop influences to his playing” (Washington Post).
Blue Yonder upright bass player and producer Will Carter, best known for founding the global summit of old-time musicians at the annual “Clifftop” festival in WV, reports that for him “an evening with Blue Yonder is like telling tales around a campfire – the stories we tell take me out of my specific situation and connect me, through shared experiences and emotions, with everyone in the room.”
MORE ABOUT THE MEMBERS OF BLUE YONDER:
John Lilly, Blue Yonder’s vocalist and front man, is known throughout the country and in Europe for his heartfelt original songs about loving, living, and losing. John recently released his fifth CD, “Cold Comfort,” recorded in Texas and Tennessee. In 2007, his “Haunted Honky Tonk” CD rose to #1 on radio charts in the U.S. and Europe. John’s songwriting earned him top place in the 2005 Ghost Writers in the Sky song contest, as well as the 2010 “Next Great Road Song” contest, sponsored by Spin and Midas. A former tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, John travelled as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers dance team and with Appalachian master fiddler and NEA National Heritage Fellow Ralph Blizard. Lilly now tours widely, sharing his own music. He has served as editor of West Virginia’s Goldenseal magazine since 1997.
Robert Shafer, on both acoustic and electric guitar, possesses the uncommon ability to play with lightning velocity, infectious swing, or subtle emotion – whatever the music calls for. One of only a few guitar players to have won the prestigious Walnut Valley National Flat Picking Championship more than once, Robert has released seven recordings, many in partnership with other champion pickers, including Robin Kessinger, Steve Kaufman, and Johnny Staats. Robert was most influenced by Doc Watson’s acoustic flatpicking, but over the past few decades he has spent at least as much time playing his Telecaster with country music bands Southern Mix and the Pourhouse Crew, mastering techniques learned from such standouts as Merle Travis, Danny Gatton, and Les Paul as well as others of Nashville’s hottest sidemen.
Will Carter is the bass player in the Contrarians, a touring contra dance band. He has also played in several bluegrass and old time bands over the years, including well-known band mates, such as fiddler Bobby Taylor and Nashville banjoist/producer Alison Brown. Will also organizes musical events, having conceived of and helped found the Appalachian String Band Music Festival, Mountain Stage/NewSong Music Festival and Song Contest, and Charleston Jazz Series.