Chris Hillman’s most recent solo project, The Other Side, was released nine years ago. Produced by Herb Pedersen, the fourteen-track album was issued by Sovereign Records.
Among the fourteen songs are nine that Hillman co-wrote with his longtime collaborator Steve Hill. “True Love” is a mid-tempo dobro and mandolin centric number about the joy marriage and children bring to life. “Drifiting,” an acoustic ballad, is gorgeous and is similarly themed to “True Love.” Gospel themed “The Other Side,” adds a nice dose of fiddle into the mix and has an effecting lyric about heaven told through Hillman’s high lonesome bluegrass harmonies.
“Heaven Is My Home” is an excellent gospel themed acoustic ballad about God and the Pearly Gates that’s also beautifully executed. “Touch Me” is more of a country ballad, with acoustic touches, and it’s very, very good. I also quite enjoyed the mid-tempo bluegrass of “The Wheel,” thanks to Hillman’s harmonies and the stellar production bed.
Hillman and Hill also co-wrote “Heavenly Grace,” another excellent gospel flavored bluegrass number with beautiful ribbons of fiddle heard throughout. “I Know I Need You” and “Our Savior’s Hands” aren’t much different, while the latter is far more musically sparse, with acoustic guitar leading the way to frame Hillman’s voice.
Hillman co-wrote “It Doesn’t Matter” with Hill and folk singer Steven Stills and it’s one of the album’s strongest tracks, thanks to a production bed that allows room for Hillman’s voice to shine through. “Missing You,” which Hillman wrote with Richard Sellers and Tom Russell, follows the same pattern and is another wonderful song.
Two of the most interesting tracks on The Other Side are covers. Hillman gives a nice country-fried update to The Byrds “Eight Miles High” that transforms from 60s rock into stunning acoustic country. I love hearing the fiddle and mandolin front and center. The other cover is the traditional Celtic folk song “The Water Is Wide.” It’s the album’s centerpiece thanks to the crisp production and Hillman’s clear voice.
By all accounts The Other Side, an acoustic country meets bluegrass meets gospel album is an outstanding project. The musicianship is clean and crisp and none of the material is second-rate. I just wish Hillman’s voice were more prominent on most of the tracks, with his vocals pushed to the front, as opposed to being somewhat behind the instrument bed. That slight change would’ve made The Other Side a slam-dunk for me. But I’m probably just being nit-picky about an album that really doesn’t have any major faults or weaknesses