Chris and Herb: Way Out Midwest

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen return to town this coming Sunday for a 7:00 p.m. show at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The Dakota has posted this page to preview the show. The chance to see these guys play is a rare privilege. I’m going to be there. If you are in the vicinity, I hope you will join me.

Who are Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen? Chris was a founding member of the Byrds and is one of my all-time favorite musicians — we celebrate his birthday whenever I remember it 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.)

In August 2012 Chris came through town with 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 rhythm guitar, and Bill Bryson on bass. I attended both of their two glorious shows at the Dakota. Monday night’s show was a little ragged, almost like a rehearsal for Tuesday night’s show, which was perfect. I shot the video below of “Eight Miles High” at Monday night’s show. It doesn’t do justice to what we heard, but it gives you an idea.

Since the DRB broke up Hillman and Pedersen have continued to make great music for smaller audiences. I absolutely love each of the discs Chris has recorded with Herb including Way Out West and, most recently, At Edwards Barn. These are fantastic recordings. Please check them out.

Chris talks about At Edwards Barn and a few other items of interest in this interview. And don’t miss this Los Angeles Times profile of Hillman occasioned by the release, or Hillman’s own overview of his career in a lecture at the Library of Congress.

In anticipation of Sunday night’s show I interviewed Herb a few weeks ago. Looking back, I asked him, what are the highlights of your career? Herb mentioned the beginning of his career with Vern and Ray, a gig which led him to the Dillards and session work playing and singing with Emmylou Harris, Gordon Lightfoot, and James Taylor. “Then I was busy for ten years,” he said. He played as a session musician with just about everyone before joining Chris in the Desert Rose Band.

Getting back to my question, he added, one of the highlights of his career was working with Lester Flatt in 1967. He hadn’t mentioned that yet. What did he do with Flatt? All he did was fill in on banjo for Earl Scruggs. No problem! Herb is a musician’s musician.

One highlight of the reconstituted DRB’s 2012 shows at the Dakota was Tuesday night’s impromptu performance of the DRB’s “Twilight Is Gone,” written by Hillman and Steve Hill. That’s Herb on the right playing Dobro and contributing to the beautiful three-part harmony in the video below.

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