What sets the Blue Sky Riders apart is the unique diversity and songwriting talents of its members. And it’s not just the lyrical content, but also the ability to craft tightly woven songs full of dazzling harmonies. Kenny Loggins (writer of such pop classics as “Footloose,” “What A Fool Believes,” “I’m Alriht,” “This Is It,” “House at Pooh Corner”), Georgia Middleman (whose writing credits include songs recorded by Keith Urban and Faith Hill) and Gary Burr (“Songwriter of the Year” recipient from ASCAP and Billboard with credits including Tim McGraw, Reba and Kelly Clarkson) formed Blue Sky Riders out of a series of prolific songwriting sessions and have now released their debut full-length album, Finally Home, to follow up their initial 2011 live EP.
The project, which the trio produced with Peter Asher (Martina McBride, James Taylor), is a 15-song, country/pop collection with a sound fitting somewhere between the 1970s acoustics of The Eagles and the contemporary dynamics of Lady Antebellum. Songs like “Little Victories” (co-written with Richard Marx) and “As Luck Would Have It” display the record’s optimistic undercurrent while also showcasing compelling three-part harmonies. In fact, from the opening notes of “I’m A Rider (Finally Home),” it’s clear that these three vocalists have an exceptional chemistry when it comes to developing melodies and arrangements.
The military inspired, “Feelin’ Brave,” which hints at The Doobie Brothers with wonderful transitions and instrumental hand-offs, provides possibly the best example of the three singers coming together, while also allowing each to retain their own signature touch. And on the self-empowered, “Dream,” and the acoustic/electric, “Just Say Yes,” Kenny, Georgia and Gary are allowed room to spread their musical wings before joining back in layered step for a warm chorus. Their individual timbres fit so nicely together that even when each member takes a turn singing the lead lines, you can’t help but wait to hear how they orchestrate the unique lines and phrasings of each complex new passage. The bluesy, “How’s That Workin’ For Ya” showcases harmonies punching in and out while on “You Took The Words (Right Outta My Mouth),” different combinations of voices move through the song.
Throughout most of the record, Finally Home retains its hopeful tone where even the contemplative, introspective songs are more understanding than overburdened. On the acoustic-based, “Another Spring,” an echoing road song of the heart, Georgia sings, It’s alright, everything in its own time, when working through the struggle. Album-closer, “How About Now,” showcases a take-charge mentality while the rootsy, ¾-time ballad, “A Thousand Wild Horses,” finds reason for optimism even in the stampede. One of the album’s best tracks, the lines, There’s a thousand wild horses, thunderin’ behind me / hell bent on runnin’ me down, are followed by the knowing words, I’m gonna get run down or I’m gonna ride, as if to remind us that there’s always hope.
The diversity of Kenny, Georgia and Gary comes through in a blend of styles that continually creates fresh new turns. “You’re Not the Boss of Me” runs through roadhouse Honk Tonk while the playful, “Say I Like It,” finds its power in a vibrant horn section. The contemporary country, “I Get It,” provides a sweet play on words and “Windeer Woman” ventures into acoustic jazz. However, the foundation of the project never veers from the vocal interaction of the group’s three members, and on Finally Home, the Blue Sky Riders deliver a harmonic powerhouse full of compelling moments.
Key Tracks – “A Thousand Wild Horses,” “Feelin’ Brave,” “Another Spring,” “I Get It”