Blue Yonder is a new band from Charleston, West Virginia, that takes strands of early country music – from swing to honky-tonk, bluegrass and rockabillly – and weaves them together with award-winning original compositions and a contemporary feel. The group features three seasoned musicians each with distinctive and notable skills: singer and songwriter John Lilly, national guitar champion Robert Shafer, and bassist Will Carter.
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.
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 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.
Together, Blue Yonder entertains audiences of all ages with their songs old and new, their stellar – often brilliant – musicianship, their relaxed demeanor, and contagious sense of fun and excitement. Acoustic country music never sounded so fresh, so inviting or so appealing.