Holding court in Charleston, West Virginia since 2013 with their swirling expanse of country, Americana, blues, Western Swing and Appalachian traditions, Blue Yonder is the collective, fun and freewheeling yet heartfelt and musically insightful vision of three veteran musicians with resumes a mile long each.
Frontman John Lilly is best known locally for starring in the Hank Williams production, The Lost Show, which has run annually in Charleston for the past 18 years. He is also a well-traveled artist with five solo albums under his belt. Acoustic and electric guitartist Robert Shafer is one of only a few musicians to have won the prestigious Walnut Valley National Flat Picking Championship more than once. He’s done seven recordings, may in partnership with other champion pickers. Bassist Will Carter is a veteran of various bluerass and old time bands, as well as The Contrarians, a touring contra dance band.
Add ‘em all up on their latest full length album Rough and Ready Heart, and you’ve got a fast paced, sweet harmony drenched set list full of clever storytelling geared towards making you stand up and dance and sit down and think over and over.
Whether they’re taking playful views of hitchhiking (“Standing By The Side of the Road”), lamenting lost love (“Lonely Hour,” “You Can’t Get There From Here”), reflecting on days gone by rather than embracing tomorrow (“Lost in Yesterday”) or looking back at a long line of barely survived disillusion-filled heartaches (“Rough and Ready,” “Well Acquainted with the Blues”), the trio taps into primal emotions in a way that makes them go down easy – and sometimes with an optimistic wink.
Fans of Blue Yonder-style down home Americana and old sitcoms will appreciate “I Dream of Jeanie” – which is presented as a wistful look back at a lovely romance but may invoke some nostalgic TV imagery that will surely soften the blow.