My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Richard Sellers

Album Review – Chris Hillman – ‘The Other Side’

The_Other_Side_(album)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

Grade: B+

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Album Review – The Desert Rose Band – ‘Pages of Life’

PagesofLifeIn early 1990 The Desert Rose Band released their third album, Pages of Life, produced once again by Paul Worley and Ed Seay. The band’s third album, it was their most commercially successful, and their final charting release.

Chris Hillman and Steve Hill wrote the album’s three singles. Synth heavy ballad “Start All Over Again” peaked at #6, mid-tempo electric guitar and drum led “In Another Lifetime” peaked at #13 (their third single to peak outside the top 10), and steel laced “Story of Love” peaked at #10. All three of the singles are horribly dated by today’s standards, but the Byrds-era steel riffs on “Story Of Love” help it stand slightly above the pack.

At the time of its release, Pages of Life was distinguished for being a harder hitting album, even more so than the band’s two previous releases. Listening to it now, it isn’t terribly overly rock, although the drums are prominent. The album’s main shortcoming with regards to the arrangements is the synthesizers and use of late 80s production techniques that haven’t aged well at all in the last 24 years.

Beyond the three singles, Hillman co-write six more of the album’s tracks, three with Hill, and three more with other writers. Hillman and Hill co-wrote “God’s Plan,” another ballad heavy on synth that utilizes the band’s harmonies framed in a horrible 80s sheen that mixes grossly with the flourishes of steel guitar in the musical bed. “Time Passes Me By” is far more tasteful, with the steel allowed room to breathe, but it’s still not a home run. “Darkness on the Playground” is even better still, livelier, and has a nice sinister production to match its ‘social cause’ story about troubled youth.

Hillman co-wrote “Missing You” with Tom Russell and Richard Sellers. With glorious mandolin and the band’s tight harmonies, its easily one of the more country sounding tracks on Pages of Life, and a nice organic escape from the 80s sheen that suffocates most of the album. John Jorgenson co-wrote “Just A Memory” with Hillman and while track retains the awful 80s sheen, I don’t hate it, mostly because it also has a sunny vibe that keeps it somewhat engaging.

“Everybody’s Hero,” which Hillman co-wrote with Michael Woody, is another of the album’s better tracks. I like the drum work and overly uptempo vibe but Hillman’s lead vocal sounds a little listless given the energy of the backing track. Hillman’s final co-write is courtesy of “Desert Rose,” co-written with Bill Wildes. It sounds like something Emmylou Harris would record, and was originally done by Hillman on his solo album of the same name. It’s a fabulous number and I love how its decidedly country.

Overall Pages of Life is a shoddy album, thanks mostly to bad 80s style production that, as I aforementioned, hasn’t held up in the last 24 years. The songs themselves aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re made less enjoyable by the production.

Grade: B