Modern bluegrass mainstay Chris Hillman revisits his roots as a country-rock pioneer on his new album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Modern bluegrass mainstay Chris Hillman revisits his roots as a country-rock pioneer on his new album

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Chris Hillman has built a sturdy career as a bluegrass musician, bringing a melodic sweetness to a chill strain of virtuosic mountain music since forming the Desert Rose Band in 1985, and carrying on in recent years through a durable partnership with cofounder Herb Pedersen. But he remains best known for his fruitful memberships in country-rock avatars the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers as well as in Stephen Stills’s Manassas. He quietly invokes that past on his new solo record, Bidin’ My Time, produced by one of his most popular admirers, Tom Petty. The recording revisits some classics from those early days, opening with a harmony-rich take on the Pete Seeger standard “Bells of Rhymney,” famously cut by the Byrds, and adding “She Don’t Care About Time, a B side penned by Byrds cofounder Gene Clark, and “Here She Comes Again,” which Hillman cowrote with Roger McGuinn. An all-star band with members of Petty’s Heartbreakers and Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers (adding fiddle) shapes the gentle arrangements, as old cohorts like McGuinn and David Crosby help provide harmony vocals. The record includes covers of Petty’s “Wildflowers” and the Everly Brothers gem “Walk Right Back” with a number of Hillman originals of more recent vintage, but the focus is clearly on the lovely singing and warmly acoustic arrangements, which evoke the singer’s vaunted early days yet embrace the bluegrass sound he’s been plying for more than three decades. Tonight he appears in the latter guise, with Pedersen and fellow Desert Rose Band guitarist John Jorgensen, both of whom play on the new record.   v

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