Could the Sky Kings be the best contemporary country supergroup you never heard in your life? From the Rhino HandMade audio boutique comes From out of the Blue Sky, featuring all known tracks recorded by the Sky Kings, featuring John Cowan (vocals/bass), Bill Lloyd (vocals/guitars), and Rusty Young (vocals/pedal steel/lap steel/dobro/guitar/banjo). Although together for several years and despite having recorded enough material for two full-length albums -- up until the release of this single disc -- the extent of their output consisted of two CD singles and a one-shot contribution to a holiday compilation. From out of the Blue Sky commences with the band's eponymous debut, which was completed and scheduled for release on March 25, 1997. The album was not issued despite all manner of preparations: artwork was commissioned and completed, music videos were shot and aired, press releases were dispensed, and concerts were booked and even performed in the hopes to stir interest in the band. Inevitably, however, no full-length album ever graced store shelves. Following those ten tracks is another batch of demos and songs that were subsequently completed, but again, never released -- including an outstanding cover version of Elvin Bishop's "I Fooled Around and Fell in Love." While the Sky Kings were an all-star trio, as the credits reveal they had a tremendous amount of support from some very high-profile names both in country as well as pop/rock. These include Kenny Aronoff (drums), Leon Russell (piano), Al Kooper (Hammond B3), Doobie Brother Patrick Simmons (guitar), and Sam Bush (fiddle/mandolin) -- a former bandmate of John Cowan from their New Grass Revival days. On the whole, the Sky Kings come across as very similar to a slew of other contemporary country artists whose sound is as derivative of pop music as it is the traditional country roots their image clings to. The opening track, "Picture Perfect," was issued as their first single and is atypical of the upbeat metropolitan Nashville movement of the '90s. As the chorus exemplifies, the trio has a powerful vocal blend. Unfortunately, at times they become mired in the layers of synthetic percussion and overly polished instrumentation. There are several gems among these tracks, however. "Right From the Git Go" has a funky and slightly urban feel and features some fine picking from Patrick Simmons. "I Don't Wanna Live Like That," co-written by Lloyd and Craig Fuller, is a stellar piece of songwriting. Although the track works well in this context, it could easily be revamped for any number of scenarios. From out of the Blue Sky is an interesting piece of contemporary country music history. Enthusiasts indeed owe much to R.W. Hand and the archivists at Rhino HandMade for their recovery efforts. This title is limited to an edition of 5,000 copies and more information is available online at http://www.rhinohandmade.com/rhip/7714.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer