Chris Hillman performs The Byrds' hit "Bells of Rhymney" on his new album "Bidin' My Time"
From the first verse of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group The Byrds’ 1965 recording “Bells of Rhymney” Friday night at City Winery, Chris Hillman, along with Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson, made the highest quality of singing and acoustic musicianship seem so easy.
Then again, as Byrds founding member Hillman noted, the threesome has been playing together on and off for over 25 years, most notably as the core of the 1980s and ‘90s hit-making country group Desert Rose Band. That band’s 1987 hit “Love Reunited” came next, though the bulk of the set was from Hillman’s acclaimed new album Bidin’ My Time, which was produced by avid Byrds-watcher Tom Petty.
Bidin’ My Time standouts included the titletrack, written for Desert Rose in 1987 but not recorded then; “She Don’t Care About Time,” Hillman’s late Byrds bandmate Gene Clark’s B-Side to the Byrds’ 1965 Pete Seeger-penned antiwar hit “Turn! Turn! Turn!”; “Here She Comes Again,” which Hillman co-wrote in 1979 with The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn but never recorded; “Different Rivers,” written by Hillman in the ‘80s with a verse for each of his then little children and with Jorgenson on piano; the Everly Brothers’ hit “Walk Right Back,” insisted upon by Petty after hearing Hillman and Pedersen goofing around with it in the studio, and Petty’s own “Wildflowers.”
From the Byrds’ catalog also came the 1966 hit “Eight Miles High,” and Clark’s “Set You Free This Time,” which Jorgenson sang. From Hillman’s Flying Burrito Brothers period was his “Wheels” co-write with Gram Parsons, released on the band’s 1969 album debut The Gilded Palace of Sin.
Hillman’s long association with Pedersen was further represented by Buck Owens’ much-covered classic “Together Again,” which the duo sang on their 2010 live album At Edwards Barn. Pedersen, who like Hillman has a strong bluegrass background, sang the Louvin Brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” having duetted with Emmylou Harris on her 1975 country hit version of it; he also performed “She Sang Hymns Out of Tune,” a song he recorded in 1967 during his bluegrass stint with The Dillards, which Don Henley cut for his 2015 Cass County album.
Pedersen also sang his lovely ballad “Wait a Minute” before the trio ended the set. They encored with “Rank Strangers,” the traditional tune best-known from bluegrass pioneers the Stanley Brothers. But maybe most memorable was their fresh take on “Turn! Turn! Turn!”: Not only was it beautiful, what with Hillman’s lead vocal and mandolin play, Jorgenson’s magical 12-string guitarwork, and Pedersen’s rhythm guitar accompaniment, but in light of the use of the Byrds’ original in the current PBS The Vietnam War series soundtrack, as relevant as when it was first released.
Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson perform "Turn! Turn! Turn!"