June 19, 2019 by 1888media


Marrying the classic country blues, hard-driving western swing, and toe-tapping rockabilly of West Virginia’s Blue Yonder with the multi-cultural world rhythms, folk traditions, Americana, New Orleans influences, and 1920s stylings of New York City’s Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches, this summer’s co-headlining ‘Red Hot Summer Tour’ is set to be one of the most musically exciting of the year.

Hitting major hubs in the Eastern U.S., the tour will visit Asheville, Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Dahlonega with special engagements at the Pocahontas Opera House in Marlinton, the Earle Theatre in Mount Airy, NC, and a riverfront performance at Live on the Levee, a lively summer series staged by the City of Charleston, WV.


Led by singer/lyricist John Lilly, renown for starring in the Hank Williams tribute, The Lost Show, which has run annually in Charleston for the past 18 years, Blue Yonder’s original material and kinetic musicianship flashes echoes of Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Asleep At The Wheel and early 70s Grateful Dead.

Rounding out the core trio are two-time national flat-picking champion Robert Shafer, whom the Washington Post christened “a spectacular rockabilly guitarist” and upright bassist Will Carter, who has played with numerous bluegrass and old-time bands, and is the founder of the “Clifftop” festival, an annual global summit of old-time musicians in West Virginia. The band will appear with drums and pedal steel guitar at select dates.


Recently appearing on the award-winning public radio show, Mountain Stagefor the second time, the band’s sophomore album, Rough and Ready Heart, continues to generate praise and acclaim. No Depression dubbed Ready Heart one of the “Best Roots Music Albums of 2018,” with Bluegrass Unlimited heralding its “Hard-driving western swing filled with lots of tasteful steel guitar.”

Larry Groce, producer of Mountain Stage, distills it as a mix of “virtuoso musicianship and original songwriting 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” while noted American storyteller Bil Lepp crowns the trio “The Nirvana of honkytonk, the Cream of country, the Rush of rockabilly and the Beastie Boys of bluegrass.” 


New York City’s Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches are likely the only band today infusing elements of Gullah-Geechee and world rhythms with folk traditions, Americana, New Orleans influences, and 1920s verve.

With two critically-acclaimed albums under their belt, 2018’s Get Us Out Of Fearland, which Classical Arts dubbed, “Hotter-than-hot and oh so hip,” and the band’s transcendent, “unfailingly high-spirited” debut, Very Next Thing, the group has performed at such prestigious events as Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Kansas City Folk Fest, WFUV Sunday Supper, Blue Plate Special, WMOT Finally Friday, WNCW Studio B Sessions and the Mid-Winter Folk Fest at Club Passim in Cambridge.

In-demand veterans of industry events such as Folk Alliance International and the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), the group also perform high-energy music of the 1920s as Hot Jazz Jumpers.


Leading the charge is multi-instrumentalist Nick Russo, who plays banjo, resonator guitar, and electric bass, plus organ, Rhodes and harmonium. With a storied highlight reel that includes playing with Sir Paul McCartney while performing at Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s home, Russo’s résumé also includes ABC’s Good Morning America and appearances in the Sam Mendes film, Away We Go, and PSB Masterpiece, “The Chaperone.”Vocalist/guitarist Betina Hershey is the heart and soul of the collective, composing a canon of insightful lyrics and engaging melodies while also choreographing their live presentation. She’s appeared as a principal dancer in Disney’s Enchanted and Mona Lisa Smile (with Julia Roberts), and has performed on national and international tours of Broadway shows including West Side Story and Phantom of the Opera. Hershey’s in-demand original children’s musicals have been published and continuously performed around the world.

During the Red Hot summer swing, each group will showcase their original material while also joining forces at select shows to deliver special spur-of-the-moment electricity.


8/16 – Thomas, WV @ Purple Fiddle
8/17 – Dunmore, VA @ Allegheny Mountain Radio (12:30pm)

8/17 – Marlinton, WV @ Pocahontas Opera House
8/22 – Beckley, WV @ Appalachian Fest*
8/23 – Charleston, WV @ Live on the Levee
8/25 – Asheville, NC @ Isis Music Hall
8/26 – Knoxville, TN @ Blue Plate Special (12pm)
8/27 – Nashville, TN @ Honkytonk Tuesdays*
8/27 – Asheville, NC @ Swing Dance Event**
8/29 – Statesville, NC @ WAME Radio (4-6pm)
8/29 – Mount Airy, NC @ Earle Theatre
8/30 – Dahlonega, GA @ Crimson Moon
8/31 – Chattanooga, TN @ Charles & Myrtle’s Coffeehouse
9/01 – Boone, NC @ Harvest House Performing Arts Center*
9/03 – Charleston, WV @ Bluegrass Kitchen*
*Blue Yonder only
**Banjo Nickaru only


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