New, Wild and Wonderful

Above and Beyond (Independent)
Wild Blue Yonder Band

By Bob Mitchell

During IBMA 2003, while strolling through the exhibit area, I heard the sweet energetic sound of twin fiddles coming from the Cracker Barrel exhibit. As I arrived, a lively group was entertaining the crowded area with some terrific music. I was not familiar with the band but its performance made me want to stay and listen to as much as they were willing to play. However, it was those twin fiddles that drew most of my attention. Cindy Wallace and Laura Knight could not hide their enthusiasm. They were like jumping beans as they laughed, danced, bounced and bowed all of the joy that it is possible to obtain from four strings.

Danny Garrett's banjo was a driving force, along with steadfast mandolin chops from Philip Coward and steady guitar work from Melissa Wade. The crowd noise level and a lack of sound equipment made vocals difficult to hear but what I was able to hear revealed a pleasant tight harmony from a group of young musicians who love traditional country and bluegrass. At the time, Wild Blue Yonder did not have a recording featuring the current configuration of musicians. But, they do now and it's a dandy one.

Time constraints at IBMA did not permit the band to showcase their wide range of talent. However, this generous fifty-one-minute release presents a more complete band book. Wild Blue Yonder is not a strictly traditional bluegrass band. Many of their selections have the sound and feel of soothing folk-oriented music and several cuts have a distinct progressive edge. Wallace and Knight are here with their infectious fiddles on tunes such as "Bile `em Cabbage Down," and "Orange Blossom Special."

But, it is the gentle voice and the songwriting skill of guitarist Wade that takes center stage on this project. She wrote or co-wrote seven tracks. She also takes all lead vocals and is at her best on the poignant original, "Sweet Summer Day." Garrett's banjo is consistent and innovative. The mandolin chops of Coward are solid. I especially enjoyed his work on "All My Tears." Scott Carris plays a steady bass and provides harmony vocals.