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Hillman-Pedersen duo celebrates five-plus decades of musical friendship

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Chris Hillman has certainly done his time in bands, forming the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and the Desert Rose Band.

And that's not mentioning McGuinn, Clark & Hillman or the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.

But at 71, the singer and multi-instrumentalist is happy enough to be playing in a duo with longtime friend and Desert Rose Band mate Herb Pedersen, carting their own gear around the country and playing songs that they created and that influenced them.

"It's 53 years of friendship," Hillman says by phone from his home in Ventura, Calif. "We met in '63; we were 18-year-old kids playing bluegrass. We came from different parts of (California) and both wound up in Los Angeles. I don't think either one of us thought we'd make a dime, and we literally starved. But here we are.

"And Herb and I sing just as a joy, y'know? We know exactly where the other person's going, vocally, and he's a phenomenal singer. We have a great time."

Hillman and Pedersen have recorded several albums together and also in a quartet with fellow Americana artists Larry Rice and Tony Rice. But they're not dummies, either; They know audiences want to hear the hits from their repertoires -- particularly Hillman's -- and they're all too happy to oblige.

"We do cover `anything from old bluegrass and gospel songs to 'Eight Miles High' from the Byrds and all the bands," Hillman says. "I have a good 60 songs written down. I stay sort of in a set list for about the first four or five songs, then I jsut call out audibles to Herb, just judging the audience and everything, and he's quick enough that he'll know where we're going."

And you can rest assured that the duo is never worried about running out of material to tap.

"I still love singing 'Turn, Turn, Turn.' I'm not tired of it. I'm not tired of 'Sin City,'" notes Hillman, who's contemplating a new album and has been writing a memoir as well. "Sometimes I get tired of ding them, but there's that old adage that it's always opening night. YOu have to approach each song, even after you've done it 2,000 times, as if it's opening night. That's the trick, and I along with a lot of my peers took a lot for granted through the 70s and 80s, I think.

"Now I Just feel very blessed that I can still go out and play. I'm proud of the Byrds, and I was very lucky kid to be in that group. And I can say that about all the bands. We occasionally cut something we thought was so hip at the time, and years later it turns out it was -- and still is. How good is that?"

>b?Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen

8 p.m. Thursday, April 7.

The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.

Tickets are $25.

Call 734-761-1818 or visit theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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