Sonoma Music - Mike Hyland


Blue Sky Riders go Uptown

It seems that singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins has entered into yet another phase of his already long-lasting music career.  From his early days and the hits by Loggins & Messina, then into his solo career beginning in 1976 flowing into his film music career with tunes placed in some pretty big movies, to recording children’s albums for Disney, Loggins is now back in a group situation and he is the happiest he’s been in quite a while.

“I started writing songs in Nashville with Gary Burr preparing for an album that was targeted exclusively for Target stores,” says Loggins in a recent phone interview.  “We wrote three or four songs together and started making demos of the songs.  We laughed a lot and I really enjoyed the strong blend of both of our voices.  Over a period of time, we discussed putting a band together, but I also wanted to include a female voice in the group.  Gary agreed, and we asked Georgia Middleman if she wanted in.  Luckily, she said yes.”

The group released its first full-length album, titled “Finally Home,” in January, and has just kicked off a summer tour to promote it.  They play the Uptown Theatre in Napa on Saturday, August 3, the eighth date of the tour.  The album was recorded in both Los Angeles and Nashville and produced by Peter Asher who originally discovered and produced James Taylor, produced numerous hit singles and albums with Linda Ronstadt, as well as artists including Bonnie Raitt, J.D. Souther and Cher.   Asher also produced the James Taylor – Carole King album “Live at the Troubadour” that was released two years ago.

While most know of Kenny Loggins’ success, both Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman bring a lot to the table as well.  Burr is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and has written thirteen #1 country hits as well as songs for a vast musical spectrum of artists including Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, Garth Brooks, Don Williams, Conway Twitty, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Kelly Clarkson, Carole King and, well, you get the idea.

Georgia Middleman brings not only a beautiful and powerful voice to the group; she also brings a wealth of writing experience as well.  Her songs have been recorded by Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Martina McBride and she recently scored a song on the first soundtrack release from the successful television series “Nashville” on ABC.

Kenny Loggins, of course, has had more than three decades of success as a songwriter and performer.  His own hits include “Celebrate Me Home,” “I’m Alright,” “Danger Zone,” “This Is It,” “Danny’s Song,” “Footloose,” and many more.  He’s also written “What A Fool Believes” with Michael McDonald for the Doobie Brothers and “The House At Pooh Corner” for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  And then, there’s the  trove of Loggins & Messina hits!

“We (The Blue Sky Riders) will open the show at the Uptown and after a short break and Kenny changes his shirt, he’ll come back out and do a set of his hits,” says Gary Burr.  “We’ll be playing most of the new album but we’ll also throw in a few surprises every once in a while.”

“The three of us wrote the album together and then recorded it all together,” says Kenny.  “We wanted a total organic approach, not to mention an organic feel as well to this entire project, and I think we have achieved it.”

Having been together for several years now, they first recorded an EP, “Live at the Rutledge,” which introduced Nashville and the world to their exceptional collaborative songwriting and unique sound.  Driven by three-part harmonies and a sincere, soulful delivery, each of these veterans sings lead as well, separating Blue Sky Riders from not only anything they have done respectively, but anything else out there.  Now, some may bring up the fast rising success of Lady Antebellum as a similar example, but with the lengthy writing and singing backgrounds of both Loggins and Burr, plus add Middleman’s run of successful songs, and you have an incredibly strong foundation on which Blue Sky Riders have been built.

Throughout the course of “Finally Home,” the trio merges rock, pop and country into an interesting and pleasing collection of 15 songs.  The second single release from the album is a track titled “Feeling Brave,” written by the three, and for which they will launch, in conjunction with their Portraits of Bravery campaign, a social media campaign that was created in support of veterans and their families as they re-adjust to their domestic life back home in the U.S.  Additional information about Portraits of Bravery may be found on the blueskyriders.com.

In addition to their west coast summer tour, the band recently played the Stagecoach Festival in April, played two dates at the famed Sundance Festival and played an amazing eight performances at SXSW in Austin, Texas where they were ranked No. 3 on Examiner’s “Top Five Bands Not To Miss.”

The current tour dates take Blue Sky Riders through the mid west and the north east,  there will be a time or two when Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman will head back to Nashville to play the Bluebird Café.  One upcoming date is just a few weeks after the August 3 show in Napa.

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