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Happy birthday, Chris Hillman


The Big Trunk has a post on today's Power Line in celebration of Chris Hillman's 60th birthday (or 61st or 62nd, depending on which source you believe). As with Sonny Clark or Gerald Moore—in very different musical contexts—I can't think of an album that hasn't been improved by Chris' playing on it. The man can't seem to play (or sing or write) a weak note. Though he played second fiddle (bass, actually) to Roger McGuinn in the Byrds, Chris is truly one of the most talented vocalists, songwriters and mandolin players of the last four decades.

I was in a mandolin workshop with Roland White (brother of late Byrds' and Kentucky Colonels' guitarist Clarence White) in Mayville, New York, last summer, when Chris and his musical partner, Herb Pedersen, dropped by to pick up a few picking tips from their old friend. The two of them sat patiently until Roland had finished, then introduced themselves and launched into one of the most achingly beautiful versions of "Bury Me Beneath the Willow" I'd every heard. It was a magical moment. Later that evening, they closed the Mayville Bluegrass Festival with a set that spanned Chris' musical career from the Hillmen and the Scotsville Squirrel Barkers to the Byrds to the Flying Burrito Brothers to Manassas to the Desert Rose Band to, of course, Hillman and Pedersen. Only Chris could pull off "Turn! Turn! Turn!" with a mandolin instead of a 12-string Rickenbacker.

If you haven't kept up with Chris Hillman's prolific output since his Byrds/Burrito Bros. days, you owe it to yourself to pick up a few of the dozen or more albums currently in print. I'd be hard-pressed frankly to recommend one over another, though Bakersfield Bound and Way Out West spent a lot of time in the CD player of my car this summer. And if he's back at Mayville—or any other bluegrass festival this summer—don't miss his act.

So happy birthday, Chris. Here's wishing you many, many more.

Posted by Rodger on December 4, 2004 at 06:30 PM | Permalink


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