Monday, May 07, 2007

Older-wiser country rockers recall when it all began

The expected reunion of two-thirds of the Souther-Hillman-Furay country rock band of the 70s didn't quite materialize as expected. Yes, Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson put on their customarily great show, and yes Richie Furay put on his resurgent act, but the two consecutive sets were entirely independent.

Both men struck a chord with Stagecoach fans who remember the days when a circle of musicians from southern California were forging a new synthesis of country and rock. Hillman and Furay (and Pederson for that matter) played key roles, the former as a member of The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and The Desert Rose Band and the latter with Buffalo Springfield and Poco.

Their Souther-Hillman-Furay was conceived as a second country rock supergroup to follow Crosby, Stills and Nash, but the trio lasted for only two recordings.

These days, Hillman and Pederson play mostly in a bluegrass mode, but they segue easily into country rock, Bakersfield-sound country and other styles during the set.

The highlights for me were Love Reunited (which I'm learning for the acoustic band I'm playing with), Sin City (if all Hillman had done was co-written that song, he'd be in the country rock hall of fame), Streets of Bakersfield (Hillman and Pederson played with Buck Owens), and The Old Crossroads (Bill Monroe's gospel-grass cautionary tale).

Hillman includes songs of faith in his material, but he never seems to be preaching. Having visited his website a few days ago, I wasn't sure that Richie Furay would be equally discreet.

I shouldn't have worried. Furay put forth a set celebrating his contributions to the genre, including a new song he opened with, Do You Remember How It Was When It All Began. The golden memories included Picking Up the Pieces, Do You Feel Like Dancin'?, Gotta Good Reason for Loving You, You Can't Run Away and Hide.

There may have been Christian messages in some of the new material, but they were not at all overt. Overall, he expressed a boyish enthusiasm about returning to the stage (a full tour is in the works). He also seemed to get a kick sharing the limelight with his daughter and harmony singer Jesse.

I had planned to do an interview with Chris Hillman after the show, but our plans got crossed. We've rescheduled to do a phone interview later this week.

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