Reviews

Thanks to you and all the members of Big Blue Sky for the concert at the Elkader Opera House as part of the Project AWARE. It was a memorable evening with great music in such a beautiful historic building

Lynnette Seigley
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

"Wow!" was the first word that came to mind as I reflected on the Big Blue Sky concert at The Opera House in Elkader. Jon "Hawk" Stravers' "original river groove music" played to the hearts of these dedicated volunteers who live the meaning of the lyrics. Great people with great energy listening to great live music becomes a soul warming experience and it was neat to see people carry that light with them as they left for the evening.

Kevin Hanson
Iowa DNR fisheries biologist, and Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network, concert sponsors

I think Bird Dance is your best yet. The tones of the instruments sounded really nice and fat. Also liked the tribute to Jon-Jon.

Eric Noden
Chicago Bluesman

I just finished listening to the Bird Dance CD for the first time. VERY impressive! I listened to it in the car under a beautiful summery Big Blue Sky, (very appropriate I thought). Nifty arrangements with a mix of familiar and unfamiliar songs. I was definitely transformed into a sort of mystical groove.

Chuck Butler
Red Wing, MN

"I dance around to the three Big Blue Sky CDs that rock my ride on my travels and keep me company at home, Searching for the Cosmic Groove, Live at the Elkader Opera House, and Driftless Groove. This music gathers influences of folk, Native American, reggae, that mixing and inclusion of sound and soul that touches beyond the bounds of 'one way' - 'The Journey of the Soul has no end…'

In the light of certain tragedies, we are each called to appreciate life more, to live as fully as we can. And so, as Jon Jr says, "I walk with beauty all around me…." To feel the presence of those gone, to appreciate the voices still with us, a mix of joy and a touch with the Earth sings throughout this music."

Edie Ehlert
Crawford Stewardship Project Coordinator, Ferryville, Wisconsin

"Whether you are fortunate enough to catch a live performance via the magical Elkader Opera House, cruising with them on the Mississippi River, or listening to any of their CD's, the delightful and moving songs of Big Blue Sky can only come from a life lived fully - passion, joy, pain, respect, love - and at the heart, gratitude for this magnificent earth and the treasures she shares with us daily. From a full moon on the Mississippi to the mountains of New Mexico, Big Blue Sky takes you on a toe-tapping journey that reaches the soul."

Becky Hefel
Freelance Writer, Guttenberg, Iowa

"I have been listening to Big Blue Sky's Driftless Groove and really enjoying it! I knew that the lyrics were great, but I had no idea that the actual music would be so incredibly skillful. An excellent combination!"

Holly Carver
Director, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, Iowa

“This music is a sanctuary of soul-thought and deep affection for the earth... It has the strength of the ancients, the wisdom of the wind, the colors of the ultimate rainbow and the true nurturing that we all sorely need.”

Denny Garcia
Midwest Music Makers Radio program, KGRR Dubuque, Iowa.

"Driftless Groove embodies power that pulls our hearts and souls entangling them with the wisdom of the sky and the rich lessons of nature; not unlike Stravers himself. It provides a significant and powerful message which reflects the sum of the integrity and spirit of the musicians themselves. The rhythms catapult us to a shared journey of freedom, expression and peace!"

Westy Nelson
Interior Designer, Horizon Interiors, Omaha Nebraska

“Once again, the mystic of the Elkader Opera House has helped create a magical music experience in the Big Blue Sky CD Driftless Groove. The quality of the recording is exceptional and the musicians seem united under the Opera House, giving listeners a “top shelf” Big Blue Sky experience.

From Castaneda’s vocals to Folko’s guitar work, the sacred words of Jon Stravers find renewed spirituality & meaning in this latest edition of Big Blue Sky. This is a group of musicians in tune with the vibrations of the “Driftless” region and we are lucky in sharing their unique musical vision.

Big Blue Sky’s Driftless Groove has deepened my awareness of the mysterious and sacred connections between humans and the awesome power of nature. There IS music in the wind & we are all connected.”

Michael Smith
Adjunct Professor of English, Dubuque University

“Call it folk, rock, blues, bluegrass – or better yet “river music” – the diverse tunes of Big Blue Sky connect us to our roots. Their new Driftless Groove CD, recorded in 2008 at the historic Elkader Opera House, may be the group’s best collection yet to capture that natural/spiritual connection.

Big Blue Sky and the Elkader audience clicked on that October evening, when Jon Stravers assembled some of his most talented friends: vocalist Kristina Castaneda, guitarist Folko Landvogt, harmonica and mandolin wizard Kevin Dohse, bass player Mike Obmascher, percussionists Jay Anderson and Scott Rose, flutist Lynne Waters, and special guest Dave Moore.

You’ll recognize Big Blue Sky favorites – “Man in the Moon,” “Coyote Love,” “Ribbons of Beauty.” But you’ll also savor “Music in the Wind,” “Rush of the New River,” and other new compositions from Jon and his late son, Jon-Jon.

From Moore’s homespun “Down to the River,” to Castaneda’s powerful, silky-smooth rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” the entire set will have you singing and tapping along – perhaps with misty eyes and a lump in your throat.”

Larry A. Stone, Envinonmental Expressions
Author, free-lance writer, photographer

"Third time’s a charm. Big Blue Sky recorded live at the Elkader Opera House in 2008 captures a gathering of talented individuals pouring their hearts into a collective cup and creating musical ambrosia. Defined as much by its freedom to be an ever-shifting lineup of musicians, The Big Blue Sky project is an ebb and flow of converging creative personalities. At center stage stands Hawk (a.k.a. Jon Stravers) like a shaman conducting an impromptu ritual. Previous Elkader recordings have strong moments, but Driftless Groove captures one live show where Big Blue Sky opened up and lit the horizon.

Within the first moments of the first track, "Universal Mother," Folko Landvoght slides his guitar right out to the edges of the song and taunts the band to come meet him. It doesn’t take long before Jay Anderson on percussion and Mike Obmascher on bass take the challenge and build a rhythm where the musicians can stretch their wings for the rest of the evening. Now things are cooking and Christina Castaneda turns up a hot blue flame under an adapted old Zephyr song, "High Flyin’ Bird" and follows with Neil Young’s "Comes A Time." Not to be outdone, Jay lays a hop step rhythm for Folko to channel a ripping Jon Jon Stravers on "Anasazi Journey." Dave Moore brings the tempo back "Down to the River" for a walk with an old friend while Kevin Dohse serenades the birds with his mandolin. The tranquil sentiments barely round the bend before Folko lets it all hang out again on a swampy rendition of Creole Americana, "Lining the Track."

This album is a testament to Hawk’s dedication to beauty. His original songs like "Man in the Moon," "Music in the Wind," and "Seasonal Gaia" are love letters to the great mystery, while "Ribbons of Beauty," "Rush of the New River," and "Driftless Moon" pay tribute to the river that Hawk has been married to for decades.

Just when you thought the bag of tricks might be empty, Lynne Waters floats in on Native American flute for "Seasonal Gaia" before Christina and Big Blue Sky usher in a velvet wrapped version of Louis Armstrong’s "What a Wonderful World." To close out the show, Hawk blows his top with infectious enthusiasm on "Coyote Moon."

Driftless Groove has the right balance of American classics and Hawkdaddy originals, all performed by accomplished musicians having a real good time doing what they do best. This is the first Big Blue Sky CD to buy, and I bet it won’t be your last.

Jon Oren Stevens
Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing

"I have seen Big Blue Sky project many times throughout the past few years now and each time I have been very pleased. I mainly have gone on the Music on the River Cruise that they do in the summer and fall. Their music makes the whole Mississippi River experience that much better because their music is about the River and Mother Earth and learning how to respect one another. All of the musicians that have played with Jon Stravers have all been top notch. Also Big Blue Sky Project have done many benefit shows and that's always a good time and for good causes. I'm looking forward to seeing many more shows and enjoying many more musicians with the Project. I really feel that if anyone goes to their shows that they will get some real enjoyment out of it. "

Roy Dobbs
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin August 12, 2010