Wild Blue Yonder blends old and new

Shannon CareyFeature, Halls

Wild Blue Yonder is well known around Knoxville, but the band that started as contemporary bluegrass 18 years ago in Fountain City has gone through a lot of changes over the years. And when they come to Clayton Park in Halls for the park’s first-ever concert Saturday, Sept. 15, they’ll bring a little bit of everything: the old, the new, the classics and the originals.

Two founding members are still with the band, Phillip Coward on banjo and Melissa Wade on guitar. With them is fiddle player Cindy Wallace, formerly with Wild Mountain Honey. Today, the group’s sound has moved from bluegrass and folk to Celtic, exploring the music that came before the Appalachian sounds. A popular arrangement of “Scarborough Fair” is sure to make an appearance, but bluegrass, gospel and original tunes will pop in, too.

“We’re playing to the talents and interests of who we are right now, especially the three of us, and we all love the old-time music,” said Wade. “We like to keep things fresh and interesting. I’m not going to step onstage and perform a song that my heart is not in. Music has to be alive. It has to breathe.”

But don’t expect a sedate performance, even though the tunes might come from times gone by.

“Our performance style is very energetic, very lively even though we’re dealing with variations of folk music. We make it that way. We love to have the audience close to us, and I would encourage everyone to come up as close as possible to give it that living room feel. We like to tell the stories and history of the songs and engage and interact,” Wade said.

Coming to Halls also feels like coming home, Wade said. Fountain City Park was one of the band’s first gigs, and they also played at the former Carson’s restaurant. Even though Clayton Park is relatively new, Wade said she’s looking forward to seeing familiar faces.

“We’re excited to be the first concert band there, and from what I see it looks beautiful,” she said.

Wild Blue Yonder will have three CDs for sale at the concert. Find out more about the band on their Facebook page, and listen to some of their songs on their YouTube channel.

The concert in Clayton Park is sponsored by Knox County Parks and Recreation in partnership with Halls Proud, a coalition of local businesses, including KnoxTNToday.com, Food City, Hallsdale Powell Utility District, Halls Cleaners Inc., Halls Service Center Tire Pros, Marco’s Pizza, Red Devil CrossFit, Rural Metro Fire and Tindell’s.

Food vendors Smoky Mountain Kona Ice, Kelley’s Kettle Korn and Holy Smokin’ BBQ have been invited. Seating is festival-style, and attendees should bring blankets or chairs to sit on.

Sponsors will also provide a variety of door prizes to be given out during the event.

The concert is free, and the event starts at 7 p.m. with music starting at 7:30 p.m. Clayton Park is located on Norris Freeway in Halls across from Rural King. In case of rain, the event will be canceled with no rain date.

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