John Lilly

Track List and Artists

Order: The John Lilly Tribute CD

April in Your Eyes CD

Order April In Your Eyes - A Tribute to the Songs of John Lilly.

The first printing of this CD will be a limited run of 300 copies. Each one will be shipped, by hand, from John Lilly himself. Artwork by Lisa Elmaleh and Jackson Emmer. Includes digital pre-order of April In Your Eyes - A Tribute to the Songs of John Lilly. You get 2 tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it's released.

A video with all the samples and photos:


 Track List and Artist Bios

Track 1 "April in Your Eyes"

Maya de Vitry & Ethan Jodziewicz

In late July or early August for the past 30 years or so, a certain breed of musicians has gathered on a mountaintop in south-central West Virginia and created a wonderland – a sort of mountain music Brigadoon. We call it Clifftop. This is where I met Maya de Vitry and her friends and family. They were a few tents down from me up on Geezer Hill. What charming, gentle people! What warm and captivating music! Our friendship and mutual admiration traveled from there to East Nashville, where I was a frequent couch surfer at a house she shared with some other marvelous musicians and fine people. I later visited with Maya and her family at their home outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I got the feeling that Maya and I understood each other on several levels.

Maya de Vitry

When I first heard her and Ethan's recording of "April in Your Eyes," I wept openly. I felt that she saw right through me and made me appreciate and understand that seemingly simple song in deep and mysterious ways. I listened again and wept once more. Her rich, expressive voice, perfect tempo, and duet choruses with Ethan, underscored by their clear and flowing acoustic guitar and bass playing, took me where I longed to be. Jackson Emmer and I quickly agreed on the title track for this collection!

Maya de Bitry

Sample of "I See April in Your Eyes"


Track 2 "This Old Knife"

Andrew Adkins

Adrew Adkins

A few years ago, Andrew Adkins and I were attending a benefit/farewell concert/dinner in honor of a local musician and songwriter friend who was nearing his final days. As the evening endured, Andrew and I ended up across the gravel lot at a big U-Catch-Em catfish pond. They were having a contest. Apparently, there was a 50 pound-plus Mississippi Blue catfish in the pond, and he or she would be worth a lot of beer money in the back of one and only one of these pick-up trucks parked in the gravel lot. Andrew and I spent about an hour trying to write a song at this odd moment. Andrew is the king of odd moments – perhaps the most natural and second-most prolific songwriter I know. Words and melodies fall from him like sweat off of a coal miner. He plays guitar like he owns it, sings a song like he wrote it and smiles and laughs like he means it. I love the way Andrew, Annie Neeley and company hear and play "This Old Knife" – like they own it, wrote it and mean it!

Andrew Adkins

Sample of "This Old Knife"


Track 3 "They Tore the Cabin Down"

Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay

In mid-March, during pre-pandemic times, thousands of musicians would flock to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest (SXSW) and related activities. A man named John Conquest instigated and organized a renegade iteration of SWSX, which he called Not-SXSW, focused strictly on traditional country and American roots music. I first attended around 2003 or so. Though I enjoyed it and was happy and honored to be there, I was new to Austin and apparently looked pretty lost and pathetic. One night around dinner time, a car pulled up, a window rolled down, and a friendly voice invited me to dinner. That was how I met Brennen Leigh. She, her father and her brother kindly took me under their wing. We ate and talked and laughed for hours and discovered much in common.

John and Brennen Leigh

When I first heard her and Ethan's recording of "April in Your Eyes," I wept openly. I felt that she saw right through me and made me appreciate and understand that seemingly simple song in deep and mysterious ways. I listened again and wept once more. Her rich, expressive voice, perfect tempo, and duet choruses with Ethan, underscored by their clear and flowing acoustic guitar and bass playing, took me where I longed to be. Jackson Emmer and I quickly agreed on the title track for this collection!

Brennen Leigh

Sample of "They Tore the Cabin Down"


Track 4 "Tore Up from the Floor Up"

Bill Kirchen

Bill Kirchen is one of the funniest and most thoughtful people I know. He has received countless standing ovations on stages large and small for his guitar and vocal abilities, his way with a song and his command as an entertainer. He has found a huge audience among the most unlikely congregation of hippies, truckers and honky-tonkers imaginable - first as a founding member, vocalist and guitarist with Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and later with his own band and as a solo performer. "Hot Rod Lincoln," featuring Bill's scorching Telecaster guitar licks, entered the Billboard Top 10 in 1972 for Commander Cody and eventually became Bill's signature song. Though he started out a hitchhiker with a banjo, Bill soon heard the "honk and twang" of the Telecaster calling his name. But he never forgot his folk and early country music roots.

John and Bill Kirchen

I met Bill in about 2002 at a private party in suburban Washington, D.C., honoring afflicted banjo picker Lynn Morris. He was warm, silly, and welcoming. I told him how many unused brain cells I killed listening to his music while I was living in a college dorm in Champaign, Illinois. When I saw Bill again a week later in West Virginia, we were already old friends. I am so proud of that friendship and so grateful that Bill took the time, talent and effort to record "Tore Up from the Floor Up" for this project! He nailed it!

Bill Kirchen

Sample of "Tore Up from the Floor Up"


Track 5 "Lost in Yesterday"

Sam Moss

"Marvelous, resonating, magnetic stillness" were the words a writer at the Boston Globe chose to describe the music of Sam Moss. A longtime friend and musical collaborator of Jackson Emmer, Sam is a recent discovery for me. The more I listen to his taut but inviting singing and superb finger-style guitar playing the more I like this guy. He extracted a deeply emotional essence of lost love and loneliness from my original 1950's-style country music take on "Lost in Yesterday" (Rough and Ready Heart; Blue Yonder – NewSong Recordings NSR0118 – 2018) and made it his own. Solo acoustic, subtle, personal and vaguely mysterious. Yeah! I like this guy!

Sam Moss

Sam Moss

Sample of "Lost in Yesterday"


Track 6 "If I Could Fly"

Kathy Mattea

Kathy Mattea is one of the most beloved and revered women in Nashville. Music journalist and author Robert K. Oermann once described her as the "Superstar Next Door." She is a shining talent, a smiling and pleasant person and a West Virginia treasure. I met and became acquainted with Kathy through the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, where I have served as a board member since 2007 and Kathy was inducted in 2011. She has been a frequent guest host and performer on West Virginia's popular radio show Mountain Stage, and just an all-'round good egg!

Kathy Mattea

I personally picked "If I Could Fly" for Kathy to sing based on the song's uplifting lyrics and bluegrass-friendly tempo and song structure. Kathy's roots are in bluegrass music. She left West Virginia University in 1978 to play in a bluegrass band and soon found herself in Music City, working part-time at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and married to Jon Vezner – a soon-to-be-famous songwriter. Jon scored great success in 1989 with his emotional and pristine classic "Where've You Been," for which Kathy received a Grammy Award for her fine vocal performance. Kathy and Jon have enjoyed the opportunities that come in Nashville with that level of success. That includes access to the most exclusive song publishers and songwriters. I was pleased and humbled, therefore, that Kathy and Jon generously agreed to record "If I Could Fly" for this project. Accompanied by 2008 West Virginia Music Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Award winner Charlie McCoy on harmonica (and Jon playing several instruments and singing vocal harmonies), Kathy delivers an award-worthy vocal performance and one of the most memorable moments in this collection.

According to one listener's eight-year-old child, "I like that! I'd do that too if I could fly!" Thanks, Kathy!

Kathy Mattea

Sample of "If I Could Fly"


Track 7 "The Jackpot"

Ron Sowell

I moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in 1997 when I was hired to edit the state's folklife quarterly called GOLDENSEAL. I was just starting to get back into music – writing and performing – after about five years hiatus. I was ready, I thought, but my first ventures to find a venue or an audience came up empty. I kept looking and soon stumbled into a plywood and cider block church tucked back in a neglected neighborhood in what is called North Charleston. They held an open mike night once a month run by a man named Ron Sowell. Ron had wings and a halo, played a harp, and hovered several inches off the ground. Seriously, Ron is an angel! Warm, genial, patient, talented, and welcoming. Exactly the guy I needed to meet at that moment. He signed me up for a three-song set, and we have been friends ever since.

Ron Sowell

Originally from Roswell, New Mexico, Ron spent years in Dallas, Texas, and New Orleans before landing in West Virginia. He developed excellent guitar, harmonica (I told you he played the harp!) vocal, writing and performance skills, and soon helped found a band called the Putnam County Pickers. That commune-based band evolved into Stark Raven, which eventually became the core of the Mountain Stage radio show's house band, with Ron as the band leader – a position he still holds after more than 40 years. Ron is a stalwart of the local music scene in Charleston. In addition to his monthly open mike and Mountain Stage duties, he works with local schools and churches, teaches private lessons, organizes a wonderful concert series, writes, performs and records. And hovers a few inches off the ground!

I suggested that Ron consider recording "The Jackpot" for this project. It is a true story of Shakespearean proportions involving a weak man who suddenly becomes extremely wealthy and cracks under the burden. It needed to be sung and played with compassion and clarity. Ron, together with longtime musical collaborators Julie Adams, Chris Stockwell and John Inghram, made this song into a painting with sad but beautiful brush strokes, unforgettable colors and dark shadows.

Ron Sowell

Sample of "The Jackpot"


Track 8 "The Drifting Tune"

Golden Shoals

Among the many surprises I love about this kind of music is the beautiful way it weaves together divergent sounds and aesthetics to create its own new universe. Northern and Southern, classical and rustic, male and female, howling and warbling, barking and purring, expensive and cheap, precious and disposable. Mark Kilianski and Amy Alvey (Golden Shoals) embody this set of dichotomies as well as anyone. They met several years ago, each one ostensibly studying classical music at the revered Berklee School of Music in Boston, while actually gorging themselves on Southern mountain music. Playing rhythms that defy a conventional time signature, notes that fall between the notes, and jamming – eyes closed -- for hours with people they just met, knees touching and hearts soaring.

Mark Kilianski and Amy Alvey (Golden Shoals)

Previously called Hoot and Holler, this talented and eclectic duo take each other, their music and their listeners to places none of us have ever been before. They add nuance to substance and stir it up with plenty of pep and sass until it feels just right. Heads bob, hips sway and for a few moments we are somewhere else – deep inside that music.

I was so pleased when Golden Shoals got on board in making this tribute a reality. "The Drifting Tune" was written in about 2004, starting with a couple of lines from the golden tongue of Georgia Lilly (eight years old at the time) and fleshed out by me a few days later while driving around West Virginia and getting paid to do something else. Ask me about it sometime – it is an interesting story! I live at the intersection of songwriting and old-time music, and so do Mark and Amy. It's not a busy corner - but those you meet there have a pretty good idea where you came from and where you are headed. No need to explain. Thanks, Amy and Mark!

Golden Shoals

Sample of "The Drifting Tune"


Track 9 "Roaming through Wyoming"

Jackson Emmer

This project has been a life-affirming and a life-changing event for me. At the helm of it all, as loose of a helm as you could imagine, stood the tall, mellow, genial presence of one of the finest performing songwriters I know - Jackson Emmer. From his warm smile to his sensible shoes, he is just the guy you want to give you sage advice and safe harbor on a bad day and tell you when it is time to hit the waves (or WAVs) once more. He is humble beyond measure, but I am here to tell you that his talent, accomplishments, and probable future would be the envy of any major-label guitar picker in any town.

Jackson Emmer

Jackson sought me out a few years ago. He didn't need my help, but I was glad for his presence and the many contributions he made to the songs we have written together. He lights up the room when his mojo kicks in and the ideas start to flow. Then he takes his notes and his work tapes to some secret laboratory hidden deep in the Rocky Mountains (or maybe to his mancave at his home in Carbondale, Colorado) and keeps the best parts, discards the lesser parts, and exercises the hard-won wisdom to know the difference. The result is what we call music, friends, and I am a big fan of the music of Jackson Emmer!

Jackson Emmer

Sample of "Roaming through Wyoming"


Track 10 "Come When Mama Calls"

Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius

Sometimes it seems to me that Tim O'Brien has the Midas Touch. He can take a simple, silly song and turn it into an interesting and challenging showpiece. Just as quickly he can take a complex medley of Irish reels on the fiddle and make them look easy. But this is an illusion! There is no Midas Touch. The secret to Tim O'Brien's success and his appeal is the result of many years of dedication and hard, hard work, mixed with an insatiable curiosity and a boatload of talent. I have known Tim O'Brien about 40 years. We were both born in 1954, both raised Catholic, both lived in Colorado in the 1970s and both later moved to Nashville. I believe we first met at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in about 1980, where we discovered a shared interest in Lefty Frizzell. I was there when his legendary band Hot Rize played their first couple of gigs "up the Poudre" at Mishawaka Amphitheater near Denver, saw Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers emerge, and thrilled to Tim's duo performances with his talented sister Mollie. I was in Nashville during his brief and ill-fated major-label recording career, saw him jam with Newgrass Revival and provide perfect accompaniment for Peter Rowan (a whole night in flat and sharp keys). I opened for him in New Castle (UK) and had the honor of working with him on what became my Cold Comfort CD (2011).

Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius

I was thrilled when Jackson Emmer told me that Tim and his partner, Jan, expressed an interest in contributing to this project. Tim has been a supporter of my songwriting for some time - he recorded "Friday, Sunday's Coming" a few years ago - and I was curious what song he and Jan would choose. They chose two! The first, at least the first in my "inbox," was a beautiful duet performance of "I Thought You'd Never Call," which is offered as a bonus track for Bandcamp download customers only. A day or two later, "Come When Mama Calls" shows up. Now I'm back to this Midas Touch thing! That song, which I wrote for my band, Blue Yonder, and recorded on the band's Bittersweet Road CD, is as simple and silly as can be. But Tim and Jan made it into something all their own, with snappy guitar playing, enhanced melody, even a little yodel in my honor! Midas Touch or no, this is as good as it gets!

Tim O'Brien

Sample of "Come When Mama Calls"


Track 11 "Somewhere in Texas"

Ordinary Elephant

Crystal and Pete Damore could be a wealthy – at least financially comfortable – suburban couple in Anywhere USA. She a veterinary cardiologist and he a computer programmer. Those were the career paths each were following until they met. The pair met, fittingly enough, at an open mic (dare say it?) somewhere in Texas. Love grew, and soon also grew a call to immerse themselves in music and creativity. They wed, quit their day jobs, hopped in an RV and never looked back. They became Ordinary Elephant.

Tim O'Brien and Jan Fabricius

Prolific and accomplished songwriters, singers and instrumentalists (she on the guitar and he on the banjo) they soon amassed awards and honors, stellar reviews, festival and concert bookings, and enthusiastic listeners. Among these enthusiastic listeners was Jackson Emmer, who called Crystal and Pete as soon as he began work on this project. I had only met Crystal and Pete one time – in Nashville a few yeas ago at a Jackson Emmer performance – but we felt a kinship immediately. And I believe to my soul that they saw clear through me when they recorded "Somewhere in Texas." Such sweet singing and playing! Such sweet people!

Ordinary Elephant

Sample of "Somewhere in Texas"


Track 12 "I Could Go Wrong"

Georgia Lilly

It is indescribably gratifying for us, um, mature folks to see our music and our traditions carried on by another generation. No, they don't look or sound exactly like us, and that's a good thing! As they grow and thrive, the music and its many and complex facets grows and thrives with them.

Georgia Lilly

Georgia Lilly is my daughter. She graduated cum laude in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in bluegrass music from Glenville State College in Glenville, West Virginia. She is a recent winner in the college's annual Poetry Slam competition and ran the marbles tent at the 2019 West Virginia State Folk Festival. Georgia has a passion for unaccompanied ballads, heavy metal music, sad country songs and old-time fiddle tunes. She played all of the instruments on this track (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass), sang melody, and engineered it on her portable ZOOM 16-track recorder.

Lydia Darrow sings harmony. She is a close friend and frequent singing partner for both me and Georgia. She was formerly a vocal performance major at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and is now an active participant in the vibrant Morgantown-area music scene in northern West Virginia.

They sound SO COUNTRY and I am so proud!

Georgia Lilly

Sample of "I Could Go Wrong"


Track 13 "My Love Never Sleeps"

Letitia VanSant

I met Letitia VanSant briefly in North Carolina five or six years ago. We recently exchanged electronic communications on our way to her magnificent recording of "My Love Never Sleeps." Jackson Emmer knows her quite well, and it was Jackson whose keen ear brought her to this project.

Letitia VanSant

With a voice of an angel and a smile that could melt a glacier, Letitia VanSant is the sweetest breeze to blow out of Baltimore since dinosaurs walked on two legs. Her Web site overflows with awards, superlatives, praise and lofty comparisons. "How can someone actually be THAT GOOD?" I asked myself incredulously. "Hush up and listen," I snapped back at myself. For once I paid attention to my inner voice (No, the one on the left – not that left, the other left!) and confirmed that, yes, Letitia really is that good! Pleasant, playful, pretty and smart, she makes it all seem so easy. But she is in fact a hard-working and dedicated musician who has clearly earned her success and much more. I am grateful to Jackson for bringing Letitia on board and grateful to Letitia for her generosity, soul and talent.

Letitia VanSant

Sample of "My Love Never Sleeps"


Track 14 "Dreamers and Fools"

Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton once suggested to a young Bob Dylan that he consider trying to write a few original songs of his own. Now there was a piece of advice that changed the world! An integral part of New York's hip Greenwich Village folk music scene during the early to mid-1960s, Tom has written and recorded hundreds of songs. He has performed around the world and left an indelible impression on the music of the mid-20th century with songs such as "Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy" and "Bottle of Wine." His creations have been recorded by Judy Collins, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and Townes van Zandt to name a few.

Tom Paxton

Jackson Emmer and I were elated when Tom called recently and asked to be included in this project. It was not a total surprise, however, at least not for me. Tom had sent an email a few months ago commenting on a song called "Dreamers and Fools," which appeared on a recent Jackson Emmer CD. It was the first song on which Jackson and I had collaborated, and Tom liked the verse about the guy who goes to Fiji and buys a horse! I never suspected that those goofy details would catch the eye of one of the most experienced and influential writers of our time. A child never knows where the bubble goes as up and up it floats into the sky. But on some other day in a place so far away it may land and splatter in your eye! Thanks, Tom! So good to have you with us!

Tom Paxton

Sample of "Dreamers and Fools"


©2021 - John Lilly Music