Chris Hillman – Bidin’ My Time

As anticipated as this new album was, it comes off a bit limp. Which is a shame as it is potentially a great little CD. Chris Hillman is one of the most well respected American musicians, having effortlessly appeared in all the right places at all the right times. Bidin’ My Time is a solid effort but played a bit safe.

There is great playing on this Tom Petty-produced CD (his last project before his unexpected death in October), but little from Hillman himself. Considering his instrumental talents helped in the success of The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, and The Desert Rose Band, it’s a bit glaring that he only plays mandolin, his current main instrument, on three songs and bass guitar, historically his main instrument, on only one. With Herb Pederson, his main partner since the ’80s, the songwriting is strong and the vocals are a classic SoCal breeze. Fellow Byrd Roger McGuinn shows up with his signature 12-string Rickenbacker and David Crosby lays down a vocal on the folk standard “Bells of Rhymney,” originally on the first Byrds LP, Mr. Tambourine Man. Which brings to mind – there are three Bryds songs on Bidin’ My Time, kind of cool considering Hillman has full provenance over such a storied catalog. Petty and three other Heartbreakers also make appearances. With all this strength it’s weird how flaccid the CD is. It’s not really bluegrass nor is it rock…somewhere in between.

Positively, “Here She Comes Again” is the strongest track with a rock backing from Petty, McGuinn and Hillman’s only outing on bass. “When I Get a Little Money” has Hillman’s tastiest mandolin licks and “New Old John Robertson,” originally on The Notorious Byrd Brothers, is a solid bluegrass outing. “She Don’t Care About Time,” a Gene Clark Byrds tune, is played in the classic mold, but doesn’t jump out of the speakers.

Another ding is the artwork. For those of us who still value the whole of an album, the cover photo is terrible and the artwork is lacking. Perhaps Hillman’s strength is in a support role. Although this is not his first solo album, most of his oeuvre has had him in a supporting position. Although his partnership with Pederson, Petty and John Jorgenson is strong, the CD rarely veers out of the safe zone.

Chris Hillman
Bidin’ My Time