BLUE YONDER, BITTERSWEET ROAD
Blue Yonder consists of John Lilly on vocals and rhythm guitar, Robert Shafer on lead/rhythm/electric guitar and mandolin, and Will Carter on bass fiddle. All ten songs are original compositions by John. In the liner notes, Larry Groce wrote, “Blue Yonder lives where classic country music meets western swing,” which is a fair description. John used to play bass in Ralph Blizard’s band and worked at the Augusta Heritage Center (Elkins, W.Va.) before he became editor of Goldenseal, the state magazine of West Virginia.
On the title cut, which opens the CD, we hear John’s voice sliding effortlessly into small yodels with lots of tasteful and swingy guitar breaks. “Bootless” is more in the classic vein. (How many words can you rhyme with bootless?) “Cinder Bottom Blues” is a swingy blues with lots of opportunity for the guitar to shine. “Come When Mama Calls” is on the hard-driving Western Swing edge of the band’s repertory. “Red-Eye Express” is a driving train song which would make a nice bluegrass cover; I can hear a banjo break in my head while listening. “Do You Mind If I Drive” is filled with the harmonics and slides of a sweet steel guitar. “My Love Never Sleeps” is the prettiest song in this collection. The CD ends with “Beats Walkin’,” which is more swing with John’s syllabic yodels.
So long as you understand that this is neither old-time nor bluegrass, those who like Western Swing and country music will appreciate this recording. (John Lilly, P.O. Box 5402, Charleston, WV 25361, www.johnlillymusic.com.)SAG