Blue Yonder
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Blue Yonder

Charleston, WV | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Charleston, WV | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Americana Country




"Mountain Stage (NPR)"

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. 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, Host and Artistic Director of Mountain Stage

"Best Roots Music Albums of 2018 (So Far)"

Blue Yonder - Rough and Ready Heart

John Lilly, the trio’s songwriter and vocalist, calls their sound "acoustic honky tonk." With two-time national flat picking guitar champion Robert Shafer and Will Carter's jazz-infused bass lines, this new batch of originals will make you get up and dance, or shed some tears in your beer. The title track is a killer. - No Depression

"Blue Yonder recalls Gram Parsons on 'Rough and Ready Heart'"

Lilly’s vocals are every bit as lonesome as those of [Gram] Parsons, and the harmony vocals are perfect. 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. - AXS

"Rough and Ready Heart (Album review)"

Lonely Hour is the kind of music you’d expect from Roy Orbison. Lost In Yesterday sounds a little like a Hank Williams number. Emerald Eyes is a little jazzier, with guitarist Robert Shafer picking and strumming like Les Paul. Standing By the Side Of the Road is a hitch-hiking song like what it would have sounded if Bob Wills had written Me & Bobby McGee. Green Light features a walking bass and hot rod guitar as if Chuck Berry were playing with Commander Cody.

If you have any kind of country soul, it will make you want to grab your partner and take a spin across the living room floor. - Twangville

"Rough and Ready Heart (Album review)"

The sound is authentically pure, and it’s both appealing and refreshing as the band moves through classic country, rockabilly, swing and folk…, reminding us how good country music can be in the hands of masters. - Country Standard Time

"Rough and Ready Heart (Album review) 1 1/2 Guns Up (7/10)"

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. - Saving Country Music

"Bittersweet Road (Album review)"

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


Rough and Ready Heart (2018)
Bittersweet Road (2013)



Every Tuesday evening since 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.”

John Lilly

Blue Yonder’s vocalist and front man, John Lilly 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, Robert Shafer 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

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.

Band Members