A review written for Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
By Al Price
Chris and Herb? Doesn't sound familiar? A couple of hints--Chris is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas (with Stephen Stills), and other bands bearing his name. While with the Desert Rose Band, they had five #1 singles. His collaborators over the years include Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Stills, J.D. Souther, Vern Gosdin, Rex Gosdin, Gram Parsons and Richie Furay.
And then there's Herb. As a studio musician, he's recorded and performed with the likes of Emmylou Harris (as a member of the Hot Band), Dolly Parton, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, John Denver and Jesse Winchester. His work can be heard on the soundtracks of "The Rockford Files" and "Smokey and The Bandit". He was a part of David Grisman's bluegrass band, Here Today, along with Vince Gill, Jim Buchanan and Emory Gordy, Jr. When Earl Scruggs was unable to tour for a short time with the Foggy Mountain Boys, Herb stepped in as the banjo player. Herb joined up with the Dillards after Doug Dillard left the group. When David Grisman's 50th birthday party came around, a reunion of Old & In The Way was planned. The passing of Jerry Garcia left a void in the banjo section. Once again, Herb stepped in with his banjo. Also a member of Desert Rose Band, his most recent recordings have come as a member of the Laurel Canyon Ramblers. If you haven't bought THOSE albums yet, add them to the list.
"Bakersfield Bound" is the latest venture for Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen. Nope, not bluegrass, just straight up country music. They have successfully brought back the Bakersfield country sound, with the steel guitar of Desert Rose Band alum Jay Dee Maness acting as a third voice and interacting with the fiddle of Gabe Wichter. Hillman plays mandolin while Herb plays acoustic guitar, with some fine vocal harmonies. Hillman's phrasing is classic country, conjuring up comparisons to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. They are joined by Larry Park and Jim Monahan on electric guitar, Lee Sklar on bass and Willie Ornelas on drums.
The songs include both remakes and originals, most with a honky tonk flavor and theme. "Close Up The Honky Tonks" is a Red Simpson ballad of a man whose woman is running around on him. It's enough to tear your heart out. "Its Not Love But Its Not Bad" is a classic country ballad that sounds fresh and new, thanks to Chris and Herb. Two Buck Owens tunes, "He Doesn't Deserve You Anymore" and "There Goes My Love," likewise get the Chris and Herb treatment. The phrasing and harmonies bring back visions of Owens and his Buckaroos. "Brand New Heartache" by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, and "Congratulations Anyway" from bluegrass legends Jim and Jesse McReynolds likewise prove fertile ground for Chris and Herb's duets. A real favorite of mine was the uptempo arrangement of the country classic "Lost Highway," which Hank Sr. himself would surely have liked.
It's real country, without the smoke, big hats and line dancers. And mighty fine real country it is. Just one more musical notch on the belts of Chris and Herb. Can't wait to see what they'll do next.
[Edited by Shawn Linderman]