Sugar Hill Records
P.O. Box 4040 Duke Station
Durham, NC 27706
A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Mark W. Feldman
How do you think most contemporary country artists would feel about a release of their bluegrass work from 1963? Listening to THE HILLMEN today, it's hard to believe that it was recorded over thirty years ago. Recorded in 1963 but not widely released until 1981, THE HILLMEN is an unexpected delight and the real McCoy. Now, it's available on CD (Sugar Hill CD-3719).
Who are they and why should you sit up and take notice? Well, the band consists of Chris Hillman (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Desert Rose Band), the Gosdin Brothers (country stars Vern and Rex) and Don Parmley (leader of the Bluegrass Cardinals). It was produced by Jim Dickson, who has worked with the Dillards and would go on to produce the Byrds. Before their individual careers took off, THE HILLMEN was recorded *live* with no overdubs and sat unreleased for 20 years.
At the forefront of the West coast bluegrass scene (they were originally called the Golden State Boys), The Hillmen saw the possibilities of blending folk songs by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger with a bluegrass sensibility and four-part harmony treatment complete with guitar, mandolin and banjo. They also stayed true to straight-ahead traditional bluegrass. The CD pays tribute to Bill Monroe along the way. Their version of Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In," Guthrie's "Ranger's Command" and Monroe's "Wheel Hoss" foreshadowed things to come later with the Byrds and Burritos.
For an unadulterated listen to some tasty folk and bluegrass tunes performed by some talented pros, give a spin to THE HILLMEN.