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.
“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.”
Recorded at Echo Mountain Recording 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.
“Best Roots Music Albums of 2018 (So Far)….. Ready for prime time on the Americana charts.” — No Depression, Amos Perrine
“The beauty of this entire album is that it touches on so many styles of country music; we have a little swing, a little blues, some rock-a-billy, sad songs, happy songs, song to make you smile and song to make you think…. A very special album indeed.” — Country Music People (U.K.)
“You’re not going to find the music of Blue Yonder sandwiched between commercials on CMT, or scintillating the models of a GAP commercial. But it’s also something that 25 years from now will sound just as inviting and appealing as it does today. It’s forged in time-tested tones, influences, and themes that will never go out-of-style. Trends come and go, but the appeal for classic country always remains.” — SavingCountryMusic.com
“A wonderful album” — Moors Magazine (The Netherlands)
“They just stay tight, reminding us how good country music can be in the hands of masters.” — Jim Hynes, Country Standard Time
“When you hear the lead vocals, you can’t help but think about Gram Parsons. This is a country album with strong bluegrass influence. It is filled with catchy melodies and great harmony vocals provided by tremendous musicians. If you’re a fan of country music, you won’t just like this album, you’ll truly appreciate it.” — Gary Schwind, AXS Contributor
“Unless somebody shows up real quick, this bunch is going to have to be crowned the new standard bearers of organic music. Folk, country, Americana, honky tonk? It’s all here and done right. Singing, writing, playing, harmonizing? There’s no corner you can look at with this bunch doesn’t to it right and righteously. An utterly enjoyable trip down the blue highways, these are the sherpas that just won’t steer you wrong. Killer stuff. ” — Midwest Record
“Blue Yonder is serious West Virginia treasure.” — Vince Herman, Leftover Salmon
“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
“There’s swing and there’s blues, but there ain’t nothing like swingin’ the blues and that’s exactly what this trio from West Virginia does…on their 2013 CD Bittersweet Road.” — Song of the Day. The Westerner
“#2 on Freeform American Roots Chart” — Third Coast Music – November 2013
“we hear John’s voice sliding effortlessly…with lots of tasteful and swingy guitar breaks…[;] neither old-time nor bluegrass, those who like Western Swing and country music will appreciate this recording.”— Bluegrass Unlimited
“As Willie Sugarcapps is a Nashville supergroup made of local, veteran talent, Blue Yonder is West Virginia’s. Taking strands of early country music – from swing to honky-tonk, bluegrass and rockabillly – the band weaves them together in an authentic, down home style. Lilly has a half dozen albums or so out under his own name, Shafer is, perhaps, the best flatpicker next to Tony Rice and as with Jake Silver in Aoife O’Donovan’s band, Will Carter’s subtle jazz bass lines constantly drive the band into swing mode.”— Amos Perrine, 10 Overlooked Albums of 2013
“Blue Yonder lives where classic country music meets western swing, a honky-tonk beat meets a beautiful ballad, and red hot country jazz guitar licks meet cool blue yodel vocals.”— Larry Groce, Mountain Stage
Rough and Ready Heart (2018)