Blue Sky Riders bring 'a little country, a little folk, a little Marie Osmond' to Mill Valley

Courtesy PhotoBlue Sky Riders – from left

Courtesy PhotoBlue Sky Riders – from left

Nashville, Tenn., musicians Georgia Middleton and Gary Burr and their writing partner created their new album, “Finally Home,” with at least one major goal.

“We didn’t want it being perceived as Kenny Loggins doing a country album,” says Burr, one-third of Blue Sky Riders, who play the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley on Friday.

Joking about the most famous member of the trio, Burr, on a conference call with Middleton (Loggins never made it on the line), has dubbed their concerts “the 45-degree angle” tour because folks in the audience crane their heads to look at Loggins, who stands at one side, not center stage.

“But I’m constantly calling him Kenny Rogers,” says Burr, describing their show as “a little country, a little folk, a little Marie Osmond.”

Middleton adds that “Kenny’s been generous” in dealing with fans who want to hear his old hits. He says thank you, and tells listeners that by the end of the show, they’ll love Blue Sky Riders as well.

But the response is “amazing,” Middleton says, after audiences understand the band won’t be doing “Footloose” and that they haven’t come to a Loggins show.

“People like the album,” Middleton says. “We’re building it ourselves, with our own record label. Step by step, we’re getting out there.”

The group is the happy result of a visit Loggins made to Nashville, where he initially worked with Burr, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member whose music has been recorded by Juice Newton, Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera, among many others.  

Wanting to collaborate with new people and add a country attitude to his sound, “Kenny came to town,” Burr says. “He knew there was a songwriting environment that was very vital.”

At first, Burr and Loggins were going to be a duo, but when Loggins said, “We should put a girl in the band,” it made sense that the person be Middleton. Not only is she married to Burr, her credentials include songs written for Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and Reba McEntire, as well her own solo career.

The songwriting collaboration was fruitful, and fast.

“Kenny’s not used to writing as quickly as we are,” says Middleton, adding, “The speed freaked him out at first. But he adapted.”

There weren’t ego problems writing together in part, because they agreed to share lead vocals.

Describing a Blue Sky Riders song, Middleton says, “There’s a moment in the room when all three writers know. It takes three voices.”

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

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