in performance: chris hillman and herb pedersen/jim lauderdale

chris hillman and herb pedersen.

The second and final night of the Christ the King Oktoberfest offered two fine performances that presented Americana portraits from the past within new and immensely complimentary frameworks.

A duo set by Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen had a bounty of influences to draw on just from the artists’ respective pasts – specifically, Hillman’s storied tenures as a co-founding member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as Pederson’s time with The Dillards. There were also spiritually inclined works, pulled mostly from Hillman’s solo albums, and a smattering of traditional country covers.

The kick was that everything was performed with just two voices and two instruments (primarily mandolin and guitar, although Hillman spent roughly one third of the 90 minute program on second guitar). That made for some rather nifty revisionism, like a jam friendly treatment of the Byrds epic Eight Miles High that focused on two artful, almost proggish mandolin solos from Hillman.

But the vocal harmonies, driven heavily by taste and intuition, made the show. During a perhaps less obvious Byrds gem, Bells of Rhymney, the duo refitted the elegant melody for Hillman’s voice. But Pederson managed a conversational variation of the multi-dubbed ensemble harmonies from the Byrds’ recorded version. The result was a tune of organic, folkish beauty.

jim lauderdale

Headliner Jim Lauderdale, a veteran Nashville hand equally versed in country, Americana and bluegrass, utilized an expert band and a satchel full of original songs (many of which were co-penned by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter) to bring Appalachian string sounds of old into the here and now.

Some songs, like Love’s Voice, approached Stanley Brothers-style traditionalism. Others, such as Tiger and the Monkey, operated less out of bluegrass and more within streamlined country contours. And then there were the real thrillseekers like Headed for the Hills that came dressed in a blues feel but sported jazzy turns from dobroist Randy Kohrs (who doubled as a potent harmony wailer) and fiddler Ollie O’Shea.

It should be noted that the sound problems from Friday had lessened somewhat. Assorted pops and feedback were still littered throughout the Hillman/Pedersen set. But they had largely vanished by the time Lauderdale hit the stage. Perhaps the fact the latter took an extended soundcheck before his set began helped.

Soundchecks – what a novel idea.

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