[ Rounder / CD ]
Release Date: Friday 22 September 2017
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Chris Hillman, a founding member of the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, and the Desert Rose Band, is widely acknowledged as a seminal figure in the creation of country rock and an architect of American popular music presents his first studio album in over a decade. Tom Petty produced the album at his studio in Southern California, and Hillman's longtime collaborator and co-founder of the Desert Rose Band Herb Pedersen served as Executive Producer.
Featured performers and guests on the recording include Byrds co-founders David Crosby and Roger McGuinn; Desert Rose Band alumni Pedersen, John Jorgenson, and Jay Dee Maness; Petty and fellow Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, Steve Ferrone, and Benmont Tench; Mark Fain, Josh Jové, and Gabe Witcher.
The album kicks off with a new recording of Pete Seeger's and Welsh poet Idris Davies' "The Bells of Rhymney," which the Byrds recorded for their debut, Mr. Tambourine Man. It's always been Hillman's favorite song the band ever recorded. Crosby and Pedersen contribute otherworldly harmonies to the tune, which swells from stripped-down folk into a layered rock-and-roll cry. "I decided to cut it again because I wanted to sing with David and Herb, two great tenors," Hillman says. "David just loves Herb's singing, and at 75 years old, David is still a powerful singer - one of the best I've ever worked with or been around."
Another Byrds nod, "Here She Comes Again" was co-written by Hillman and McGuinn, and until now, had only been recorded on a live album in Australia. Hillman plays bass on the track - the instrument he originally played with the Byrds but hadn't picked up in more than 30 years. "She Don't Care About Time" was written by Byrds co-founder Gene Clark, who died in 1991. Hillman had always felt the song, which was the original b-side to "Turn! Turn! Turn!," never quite got the attention it deserves.
Hillman also indulged in an exercise every songwriter craves: he reworked "Old John Robertson," first featured on The Notorious Byrd Brothers in 1968, to write "New Old John Robertson." An ambling story song about a kind old man who lived in Hillman's tiny hometown, the tune revels in Hillman's bluegrass roots. The album also includes interpretations of the Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back," Petty's "Wildflowers," and "When I Get a Little Money," written by family friend Nathan Barrow.
Hillman's originals confirm what a fierce songwriter he remains. Front-porch jam session "Such is the World We Live In" wonders what Hillman's great-grandfather would say about current events. The song epitomizes Hillman's distinct ability to bemoan ills without abandoning hope. Album standout "Restless," another self-penned original, saunters as Hillman delivers a muscly vocal performance. Honest but loving, "Given All That I Can See," a favorite of Hillman's he calls the record's "sort-of gospel song," is a timely call for mercy and grace in an era beleaguered by hate and fear.
The project captures a rarity: a seasoned artist who has never sounded better, making music with old friends for the sheer love of it. "I did everything I felt was right in the moment," Hillman says of the recording process, before adding with characteristic humility, "I did my very best. That's all any of us can do."
1. Bells of Rhymney
2. Bidin' My Time
3. Given All I Can See
4. Different Rivers
5. Here She Comes Again
6. Walk Right Back
7. Such Is The World That We Live In
8. When I Get a Little Money
9. She Don't Care About Time
10. New Old John Robertson