Chris Hillman was a founding member of the Byrds and is one of my all-time favorite musicians — we celebrate his birthday every year in “Time Between” — but I never thought I’d get to see him perform live, let alone in a reconstituted lineup of a great band going back twenty years. (“Time Between” is the first song Hillman ever wrote, back when he was with the Byrds.)
Last night we sat at Hillman’s feet as he performed in a downsized acoustic version of the Desert Rose Band featuring John Jorgenson on 12-string guitar (mostly), Hillman on mandolin and guitar, Herb Pedersen on guitar, and Bill Bryson on bass. The band appeared at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis for the first of two shows. The second is tonight at 7:00. The chance to see these guys play together is a rare privilege. I was grateful, and I will be back tonight for more.
The appearance at the Dakota last night was owing to Jorgenson. He had played the Dakota with his gypsy jazz quintet and found it a congenial environment, as so many of the artists who appear there do. The audience last night was knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
What Hillman’s late bandmate Gram Parsons dubbed the Cosmic American Music got a major workout in the DRB’s set last night. The three-part harmony singing verged on the transcendent. One highlight of the show was an impromptu performance of the DRB’s “Twilight Is Gone,” a song that warrants renewed attention.
My usual excuse for drawing attention to shows I’ve attended is to alert readers to the artist’s tour. I can’t do that in this case. All I can say is that you may want to keep an eye out for the appearance of any of these guys at a venue near you. They have something special on offer.
Below is the band’s version of “Eight Miles High” last night. I have posted several more videos over at the Power Line YouTube channel. They don’t do justice to what we heard, but they give you an idea.
They closed out the set with “It Doesn’t Matter,” one of the highlights of Hillmans’s contribution to Stephen Stills’s Manassas project.