Chris Hillman: Bidin’ My Time
There’s an aura of bittersweetness surrounding Chris Hillman’s first solo recording in 12 years, and while it’ll primarily be remembered as Tom Petty’s last studio project, that’s not the whole story. It started as an idea with Herb Pedersen—a session legend who has known Hillman, a co-founder of the Byrds, since the late ‘60s. Pedersen was on the road in 2016 with Mudcrutch, Petty’s reunited pre-Heartbreakers band from his early days in Gainesville, Fla., and suggested that an album with Hillman might be a lot of fun to make. Petty, no doubt fueled by his own love of The Byrds’ music, said yes without hesitation. Tracked at Petty’s studio in Southern California, Bidin’ My Time enthusiastically embraces all the nostalgia that flows from say, David Crosby singing background vocals on Pete Seeger’s “Bells of Rhymney” (which opens the album), or Petty joining Hillman’s former bandmate Roger McGuinn to sling their guitars on “Here She Comes Again,” a jangly pop ditty that Hillman and McGuinn wrote together—but never recorded in a studio—in the late ‘70s. And with most of the Heartbreakers behind him on “Given All I Can See” and “Restless,” Hillman digs resolutely below the rock sheen to uncover the band’s true country roots (which have long been known to committed Petty fans, of course). It’s only fitting that he closes the 12-song set with a bluegrass-flavored version of Petty’s “Wildflowers”—in the context of the album, it’s the perfect choice, and given the unexpected passing of Petty just days after Bidin’ My Time’s release, it’s also just about as beautiful a tribute as can be paid from one great songwriter to another.