The former Byrd gets the production treatment from Tom Petty, who, along with other Heartbreakers, former Byrds and longtime Desert Rose partner Herb Pedersen, get together to play old tunes and new.
Unfortunately, this may be the last new music we hear from Tom Petty, who passed away last week. While music fans are still reeling from the news, they can take some comfort in this beautifully produced album that Petty oversaw for Chris Hillman.
Anyone who has heard American Girl will know that Petty had a deep love for the music of The Byrds and this isn’t the first time he’s worked with one of the original members. Petty, along with most of The Heartbreakers, was all over Roger McGuinn’s 1991 album, Back From Rio.
Roger makes an appearance here, along with the other surviving original Byrd, David Crosby, although not on the same track.
Musically, the album touches on the jangly folk-rock of The Byrds, along with bluegrass, country and folk, serving as something as a career overview for Hillman who, along with The Byrds, served time in The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.
Hillman and his friends pay tribute to The Byrds several times here, beginning with a lovely version of Pete Seeger’s The Bells Of Rhymney, a tune that appeared on the first Byrds album over 50 years ago. David Crosby joins in on vocal harmonies, as he did back then and Hillman’s lead vocal is clear, strong and pure.
Herb Pedersen leads the band through a slow, stately version of the old folk song with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Steve Ferrone providing piano and drums respectively. John Jorgenson plays the acoustic 12-string and Petty’s production is perfect…meaning we hardly notice it…the playing and singing sound natural and warm.
Roger McGuinn shows up a little later on to play his 12-string Rickenbacker on Here She Comes Again, a tune he wrote with Hillman over 40 years ago, but has only now gotten around to recording. It sounds like classic Byrds and you’ve gotta wonder what they were waiting for all these years.
Byrds fans will also appreciate hearing Hillman’s take on Gene Clark’s She Don’t Care About Time and a “new” Old John Robertson.
There are a few new Chris Hillman originals mixed in here as well.
Bidin’ My Time is a nostalgic country waltz featuring Jay Dee Maness on pedal steel, while Given All I Can See features Tom Petty on the harmonica.
There are a few other notable covers to round out the album. Walk Right Back…a hit for The Everly Brothers in 1960…sounds mighty fine with Hillman and Pedersen harmonizing and Tom Petty’s Wildflowers closes things out nicely…sounding now, like a tribute to the album’s producer.
Let’s face it, Bidin’ My Time certainly isn’t breaking any new ground and you’ve probably heard many of these songs before. But it’s nice to know that Hillman is still around and that he and his friends can make such warm, smile-inducing music, even at this late stage in their careers.