Review: Chris Hillman revives the Byrds’ glorious sound
Chris Hillman, “Bidin’ My Time” (Rounder)
From the opening beat drop of his first album in more than a decade to the bluegrass-infused cover of a Tom Petty song at the end, Chris Hillman doesn’t apologize for the nostalgic journey he’s on.
But it’s a pretty sweet trip.
Hillman, who made his name with the Byrds, even has Petty’s help as the album’s producer. In that respect, “Bidin’ My Time” is a full-circle project, a warm tribute to a band whose influence pervaded much of Petty’s own work.
Hillman still sounds like a man in his 20s, though he is 72, and the stellar playing behind him gives the album the feel of one last Byrds’ record. The contributions of former bandmates David Crosby and Roger McGuinn and seasoned rockers from Petty’s Heartbreakers don’t diminish that sensibility.
The album begins with a reworked version of “Bells of Rhymney,” which opens with gentle acoustic fingerpicking and Hillman’s unmistakable voice, followed by a rolling beat drop into impeccable harmonies — elevated to Byrds-level purity by Crosby and Herb Pederson. The sound will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the Byrds in their heyday.
On twangier cuts like “Walk Right Back” and the closer, a bluegrass take on Petty’s “Wildflowers,” Hillman evokes the Byrds’ most influential album, “Sweethearts of the Rodeo,” which helped lay the folk-rock foundation for what would become Americana.
Like the album as a whole, it’s an appealing celebration of an important American band.