Album Review of
Wild Blue Yonder

Written by Joe Ross
July 12, 2022 - 6:32pm EDT
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It's been a few years since The Western Flyers put out this great album, and most of these songs (classics and less oft-heard numbers) are still in their eclectic repertoire. I never tire of the expertly played fiddle tunes along with the nicely-arranged songs with down-home messages, clear harmony and tasteful instrumental breaks. The band’s smokin’ fiddle tunes include Carroll County Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown, Tennessee Waltz and Texas Fiddle Medley (Smith's Reel / Leather Britches / Jack of Diamonds). The band also draws covers from classic jazz standards such as "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" and "I'll See You in My Dreams." A western song like "Along the Navajo Trail" comes from the Silver Screen, and others like "You’re From Texas" was written by Cindy Walker but often played by Bob Wills, as was "Old Fashioned Love." This album will certainly leave you “smilin’ like an acre of sunflowers!”

Another album is long overdue, however. The Western Flyers do a mighty fine job on "Wild Blue Yonder," but bassist Gavin Kelso and fiddler Katie Glassman have moved on to other adventurous musical endeavors. As of 2022, the powerhouse western swing trio is Joey McKenzie (archtop guitar), Ridge Roberts (fiddle) and Matthew Mefford (bass). They also regularly invite guitar master Redd Volkaert to join them on big shows and tours. That's the quartet I caught at the Lost River Bluegrass Festival in Merrill, Oregon in July 2022 so hope they'll capture this sound on their next stellar album, and maybe even include some of Joey's hot mandolin, tenor banjo, twin fiddling in the mix or perhaps that of a guest artist like Tim Crouch.

Dubbed "The Biggest Little Band in the Land," The Western Flyers keep their electrifying energy at a high level and know how to impart Drive to slow, moderate and fast tempo'ed songs and tunes. I love hearing the high quality recording and arrangements that re-live a sound of a bygone era when Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys were touring in the 1940s. It doesn't hurt that the Flyers now have Grand Masters Natl Champion fiddler Ridge Roberts in the band (who also placed Third in the Natl Championship Division at Weiser). And leader of the group is best rhythm guitar accompanist for this music around, Joey McKenzie, who won that title at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest & Festival in Weiser, Idaho. I wouldn't mind hearing Joey, a fantastic multi-instrumentalist and singer in his own right, produce a solo album too. Redd Volkaert is known as a "master of the Telecaster," but I saw him recently playing a guitar built by Bruce Sexauer in Petaluma about '82.

This album is a great introduction to The Western Flyers. Since releasing it, they've been named 2019 Ameripolitan Western Swing Group of the Year. This album deserves a place in your collection, and I'm sure their next one will be every bit as good if not better. Also, check our Ridge Roberts' fiddling album, “Lone Star Fiddler,” with guitar Joey McKenzie and bassist Dennis Crouch. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)