Chris Hillman TIME BETWEEN (My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother and Beyond)

Chris Hillman
TIME BETWEEN (My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother and Beyond)

Chris Hillman, as a shy kid just learning to play bass, helped to form the California band the Byrds, which by itself, would be enough to land him a spot in the Music History books. But Hillman wasn’t content to stop there. He also was a guiding force in the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Desert Rose Band, and (Stephen Stills’) Manassas. For over half a century Hillman worked with such musical luminaries as Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, Bernie Leadon, David Crosby, J.D. Souther, Tom Petty, and Gram Parsons. Then, in the eighties he founded the Desert Rose Band, which had a multitude of hits on the country charts.

Hillman grew up in a small town in California, picked up guitar and mandolin and played in bluegrass bands until he saw a little known band called the Beatles playing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Like many of the youth of the time, it changed his life forever. A chance meeting with a band looking for a bass player led to Hillman being in the right place at the right time and the Byrds quickly became one of the biggest breakout bands at the time. The Byrds, touted as “the American Beatles” recorded several albums, toured the world, and influenced generations of musicians in the process. The band went through various band members over the years, Hillman being one of the constants. After the band broke up, Hillman was lucky enough to be part of some of the finest bands around, playing with the best songwriters and musicians in the world for many decades, and grows from a shy young man to a seasoned musical veteran, finding his voice, the love of his life, and his religion in the process.

Hillman writes honestly and candidly about band members, managers, and record executives, he talks of his love for playing music, writing songs, and working with several of the greatest musicians of his time.
His style is very “conversation-like,” as if you’re in the room with him, drinking a beer, talking about the good ol’ days.
Very refreshing if you’ve read other rock bios such as Pete Townshend, or Elvis Costello.
Hillman’s reminds me more of Roger Daltrey’s memoirs or Marky Ramone’s—candid, honest, passionate, refreshing, not as if he’s out to push an agenda or settle old scores.
These are his memories, simple as that.
A great book, not just about the Byrds, but about Chris Hillman the man, the times he lived in, and the journey which took him from a shy mandolin player, to a seasoned musician, a husband and a father.

This review first appeared on the rather magnificent Sacred Chickens website:

Review by Roy Peak.

The Rocking Magpie’s Roy Peak is Sacred Chickens’ Music Editor, and has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember.
He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show “Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn” on WPNR-FM. His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. 

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pilot Podcast #4 Readers Top 11 Albums 2020

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pilot Podcast #4
Readers Top 11 Albums 2020

As 2020 draws to a close here’s my final Test/Pilot Radio Show/Podcast …… and it’s tracks from the Top 11 albums in our readers Top 20 Albums of the year.
As I say in the show “this is eclectic’ as any Radio Show or reviews based website will ever get; and that’s the way I like it and will be the basis of what will come in the New Year; a weekly programme that will be something ol, something new, something borrowed and lots of Blues too.

When I first discovered ‘grown up music’ i.e LP’s, I would avidly sit listening to John Peel and Alan Freeman on BBC Radio 1 ……. both were ‘Album influenced’ and just as likely to play a Rod Stewart track followed by Gong, then Bob Marley and Neil Young with someone you’d never hear of again tucked away in-between ….. and that’s how it should be in my micro-world.

Check out the Mark Germino song on our home page to hear what my biggest influence was!

11Jason Isbell and 400 UnitRunning with our eyes closedReunions
10The DainteesBig North LightsSalutation Road (30th Anniversary)
9Our Man in the FieldIt was ever soThe Company of Strangers
8Kevin StonerockGipsy RoadTwilight Town
7Dave AlvinHighway 61 RevistedFrom an Old Guitar
6Rory GallagherWalk on Hot CoalsThe Best Of
5Ian ProwseThe ballad of North John StThe Story Of
4Kip MooreSouthpawWild World
3Richard ThompsonWall of DeathLive at Rock City
2Barenaked LadiesSunshineFake Nudes
1Drive By TruckersArmageddon’s Back in TownThe Unraveling

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pt3 Top 10 North American Albums of 2020

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pt3
Top 10 North American Albums of 2020

Well; I’m getting there …… the new fangled faders, knobs and buttons are no longer scaring me in my shiny new Home Studio, so ……. cue drum roll ……… I now plan going ahead with a Weekly RMHQ Podcast, bringing you new tracks from albums we are reviewing and the occasional single that doesn’t get onto the site, alongside a few oldies from across the vast Americana Landscape that tickle my fancy.
The one thing that I plan doing every week, will be bringing you ‘Gateway’ tracks and albums that took me away from Pop Music and into a much more grown up and thoughtful world ……. it’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.

This Test episode is Part II of my own personal albums of 2020, this time it’s 11 (I know, I know) eclectic songs from ‘Game Changing’ albums that I can’t recommend highly enough .

10Terra SpencerPilot USA 10Chasing RabbitsCoyotes06/11/20
10Sam JoynerPilot USA 10When u need a friendNatural Born Luvah10/08/20
9Maceo ParkerPilot USA 10SOUL FOODHard Times26/06/20
8Grant Lee PhillipsPilot USA 10Lightning Show Us Your StuffLeave a light on04/09/20
7RookiePilot USA 10RookieMiss United States13/03/20
6Ben Adair MurphyPilot USA 10Lets make a kingSame kind of Fascist09/07/20
5Sarah Jane NelsonPilot USA 10I’m Not BrokenReap what you saw
4Drive By TruckersPilot USA 10UnravellingBabies in cages31/01/20
3American AquariumPilot USA 10LamentationsA Better South01/05/20
2LeRouxPilot USA 10One of these daysLucy Anna24/07/20
1Marshall ChapmanPilot USA 10Songs I cant live withoutWill you still love me tomorrow15/05/20

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pilot Podcast #2 My UK Top 10 Albums 2020

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pilot Podcast #2
My UK Top 10 Albums 2020

Well; Pilot Show #1 has been received reasonably well so upwards and onwards we go …….
The choice of music has gone down well, but it appears (and I agree) I need to buy a new microphone to make my voice sound easier on the ear.

This is Part #1 of my own personal Favourite Albums of 2021, The UK acts ……. part #2, the North American edition will come in a few days.

10The Lost DovesThe clowns are coming to townSet your sights
9Grainne DuffyShine it on meVoodoo Blues
8Matt HillGary Gilmore’s Last RequestSavage Pilgrims
7Dan Meade n Lloyd ReidGive this world a shakeIf you don’t mind
6Robin AdamsBlack CloudOne Day
5Annie DressnerBook of loveCoffee at the corner bar
4Our Man in the FieldHenry Sr. Alexander EllisDon’t SpeakThe Company of Strangers
3Rob VincentI was hurt todayThis Town
2Pete MolinariJust like AchillesAchilles
1Hannah White and Nordic ConnectionSelf Titled

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show PILOT EDITION #1

The Rocking Magpie Radio Show

This has always been a vanity project, and as my wife always tells me that “I like the sound of my own voice” I’ve decided to resurrect the Rocking Magpie Radio Show!
During Lockdown II or was it III? I’ve lost track, but Mrs. Magpie set to work in the cellar of RMHQ and has built me a studio where I can record these things.
It’s been hardwork finding out how everything works; but I’ve persevered for once and here is my first attempt ……. forgive the mumbling, clunky links and nervous giggling; but …. as we say; it’s all about the music!

This Pilot edition is an introduction to a few albums due for release in early 2021 ….. ENJOY and stay tuned as I will sneak out a couple more shows under the radar over the holiday period which will be the RMHQ Readers Top 10/20 albums and also my own Favourite Albums of 2020.

Harry Dean StantonPilot #101/10/93You never can tell
Peach and QuietPilot #1Just Beyond the ShineTheres a very good chance
Anne Elizabeth LaubePilot #1AnnamaniaSunny days
The Burnt PinesPilot #1Burnt Pinesfrom seville to manhattan
AraluenPaul LushPilot #1And There it IsOh yeah!
Bad Days Blues BandPilot #1Table by the Wall05 Be careful what you wish for
Walter EganPilot #1fascinationTreat me nice
Gerry SpeharPilot #1lady libertyImmigrant Suite 12 minutes
Aaron Lee TasjanPilot #1Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!Cartoon Misic
Kat DanserPilot #1One Eye OpenEnd of days
Steve EarlePilot #1JTSaint of Lost Causes


Catfish Keith
Blues at Midnight
Fishtail Records

21st Century Real-Deal Classic Country Blues Deluxe.

Where do I start with Catfish Keith?
Most likely you are already a fan; owning at least one of his previous 18 releases, or more likely someone who has seen him play live; and you’re still mesmerised by his unworldly talents in the sphere of Traditional Country Blues.
Born in East Chicago, Indiana in 1962; although is actually a free spirit and a genuine ‘child of the world’ taking his music to the four quarters and unfazed as to whether he’s on a huge Festival stage in front of thousands, or a tiny club with only a handful of ‘true believers’ sitting in reverence.
The biggest surprise here, is that this is the first time he’s ever released an album of originals; which totally surprised me, but didn’t at the same time, as he is famous for re-interpreting Classic Blues tunes and rarities too.
Enough of my waffle; onwards and upwards towards the music……
Wow, wow and indeed WOW!
Even before Keith begins singing; the intro to Ximo Jo Road will instantly turn you away, or turn you on (as it did me) as it’s the Maestro making his 2003 Collins 0012H* guitar not just weep but cry genuine tears; then his distinctive gruff voice is used as an instrument in itself to tell a powerful story; apparantly inspired by his love for Charly Patton.
If you are a newbie and you’ve stuck it out to the end; what follows is sure to make you a True Believer too.
I’ve constantly found myself trying to listen intently to the songs and stories; but the the beauty, grace and effortless intricacy of Catfish’s playing has mesmerised and immersed me in such a way I’ve sat entranced as the likes of Pony Run, Roll You In My Arms (Like a Wagon Wheel) and the scintillating duet with fiddle player Randy Sabien; Move to Louisiana have all absolutely smothered each and every one of my senses.
If you’ve seen Catfish Keith play live, you will know how he somehow becomes entranced in his own work; and I swear that happens here; on the almost Gothic instrumental, West Indian Waltz.
It’s so easy, when you hear Keith playing and singing Jumpin’ Jack Rabbit or Can’t Be Undone why someone like Robert Plant would ask Catfish to be a special guest on his 2020 World Tour; which has been sadly cancelled …… but …… there’s always next year?
Obviously everything here has a ‘Classic sound’ to it; but Keith doesn’t actually ‘live in the past;’ he’s just influenced by it; which brings me to my choice of Favourite Track; a coin toss between Oh Mr. Catfish which finds the guitar player trading licks with harmonica player Peter Madcat Ruth and the result is extraordinary and contemporary too.
The other; and possibly the winner, is the title track, Blues At Midnight, which is as raw and dark as any of the originators ever recorded; but hearing Keith’s enunciation and more especially, the way he plays his 1930 National Duolian just leaves me wide eyed and open mouthed each time I hear it.
The Blues comes in many forms, and therefore appeals to each and every one of us in different ways; but if you fancy dipping your toes into the waters of acoustic Country Blues, you ain’t going to find a better starting point than Catfish Keith.

*Keith uses a different guitar on each of these 13 tracks and all are listed on the CD cover; including his TWO signature guitars.

Released December 15th 2020


Cathy Grier I’M ALL BURN

Cathy Grier & The Troublemakers
I’m All Burn

Imagine You’re Sitting in a Lonely Hotel Lounge One Cold Tuesday Night With Only 2 for 1 Cocktails For Company.

While we try to keep up to date with our reviews; getting them out as near to the release date as is humanly possible; sometime we have to make exceptions.
A few weeks ago Cathy Grier sent an e-mail asking if we’d be interested in listening to her latest album which had been released back in the Summer; and out of courtesy I responded in the affirmative.
Then heard nothing.
Until the postie delivered a package from the US of A with a handwritten note alongside a comprehensive Press Release and a cool looking CD.
So far; so good …… but with so much going on in November and now December I wasn’t sure when I could listen to it.
Then, yesterday morning I managed to squeeze in a ‘morning constitutional’ walk in the park; so played this as an accompaniment. Now; what I heard was nothing like what I expected from the imagery and artwork!

But Far Far Better, baring in mind it was a cold and grey morning and the rains came half-way round.
The title track, I’m All Burn opens with an intense horn section serenading us before Cathy glides in with a sultry ode to the feminist movement; but don’t let that put you off guys; as what Ms. Grier sings from her pumping heart is pretty much what my Mother preached to her sons half a century ago and my wife and I have passed on to our sons; and still stands upright today in 2020 …….. to paraphrase;
why does a woman have to work twice as hard as a man; to be treated as his equal?
I’m with you sister!
The sentiments that follow are pretty much dyed in the wool standard fayre; but boy oh boy can Cathy Grier not just sing a soulful Blues ballad but write a belter too.
There’s a wonderful ‘groove’ from start to finish that sent a shiver down my back while making me hold my breath at the same time; if that’s possible? Well; that’s how Roots Run Deep and Easy Come Easy Go; especially Larry Byrne’s swirling organ solos have; and still make me feel today.
Cathy dabbles her toe in Ma Rainey territory with the saucy Backroad Blues; which features some absolutely scorching harmonica from Steve Cohen as well as some slide from the legendary Greg Koch, to seal a very contemporary Classic Juke Joint love song.
I’ve quickly fallen in love with the bodacious Key To My Survival and What Fools Do; as they just somehow ‘speak to me’ in a way only The Blues can.
For a laid back style of album; there’s an awful lot going on behind Cathy Grier when she sings and plays guitar; and boy can she play a guitar …….. try listening to her solo runs on the slow and simmering Happiness Blues or Cool Trick and tell me you’re not hearing a Mastercraftsman; (or should that be Mastercraftswoman) at work and play?
While Cathy Grier has a very distinctive and smooth singing voice; she can still get low down and funky when she wants; most notably on Down On My Knees and Keep You Out, which both sound like they could have been recorded at Muscle Shoals back in the early 80’s.
There’s even a bit of a curve ball with the final track; Cathy’s Bike Song; which finds our heroine going solo and playing a Cigar-Box guitar; and it’s a lot darker than the ‘piece of whimsy’ that the title first suggested; and I’d sure like to hear a whole album in this particular style.
As is my won’t I’ve played this four times now before actually digesting the Press Release; and apparantly this is Cathy Grier’s 14th Album! FOURTEEN? And yet she looks so young and pretty.
Plus, she’s very proud that this has been recorded in Wisconsin using pretty much local musicians, and is her tribute to her new found home in Sturgeon Bay.
This is very much the type of album you will get the best from late at night when you are feeling very sorry for yourself; or sitting in a lonely Hotel Jazz Lounge one cold Tuesday night, with only 2 for 1 cocktails for company; therefore picking out one individual song to be my Favourite Track hasn’t been easy at all; but I’m going to take a punt on the Rhythm and Blues delight of Question Of Desire; but then again Protecting My Heart; which precedes it probably sounds like the single track that might sum up Cathy Grier’s ‘style’ …… oh this isn’t easy at all!
By the way, there’s one cover song here; and when I tell you that Cathy has put her own individual twist on Bobbie Gentry’s iconic Ode To Billy Joe you will hopefully what a brave risk taker Ms Grier is and, as it’s in keeping with everything else here, why I’m totally smitten with I’M ALL BURN.

Released July 2020



Anna Lavigne
Angels in Sandshoes

A Cornucopia of Musical Loveliness

While I know Anna Lavigne; as I’ve met her a couple of times; when she’s been with her partner; who is a good friend of mine; I had absolutely no idea she could ‘sing,’; so was surprised when said friend asked if I’d mind having a listen to her new album; which he had produced.
So; out of courtesy I did just that.
Oooooohhhhhhh ….. what a delicious surprise this has been; and nothing like what I’d expected at all.
The opening stanza to Every Kind of Heaven threw a curve ball; as I half expected a reggaeish tune to follow; and what you get is a rather quaint and dreamy pop song that sounds like it falls somewhere between Sandie Shaw and Eddi Reader in her Fairground Attraction days; and the ‘hook’ had me hooked straight away.
Next up; Anna ups the pace on a Twangtastic Country song; Dare to Dream which conjures up memories of Kirsty MacColl at her finest.
Do you get the picture yet? I certainly hope so.
There are no two songs here alike; which is a totally wonderful treat, with the golden thread that is Anna Lavigne’s warm, rich and eloquent songwriting weaving every single element together.
The evocative *duet, Paris in the Rain has a neat Ragtime guitar melody accompanying two voices that were meant to sing together; like a British Folkie Gram and Emmylou; if that’s not too grand.
On Cigarette, we are whisked away to a seedy nightclub; in the exotic part of town where Anna ‘talks’ the story directly to you; as if she’s letting you in on a very dark secret about that woman called; Cigarette.
There’s even a hint of slow, sexy and slightly greasy Rockabilly on the I Love The Way You Move which will have you turning the lights way down low and then shuffling around the kitchen like a teenager on heat.
Speaking of dancing; Dance The Last Goodbye sounds like a great lost ‘Teenage Opera’ from someone like the Shirelles or Shangri-La’s and won’t be out of place on Strictly Come Dancing one Saturday night.
It’s odd how the saxophone has gone out of fashion in recent years; but a judicious use off said instrument at the beginning of A Life of Her Own, which closes the record is a masterstroke as it echoes the darkness in the words and the pathos in Ms Lavigne’s stunning delivery.
Now, dear reader as you will suspect; selecting a Favourite Song has been very difficult indeed; simply because every song here could be a Hit 45, if the music world knew what it was doing.
But; I’ve managed to narrow it down to two; another ‘sexy song’ the Hot Club de Brady Square inspired La Demise de la Bise*; which finds Anna dropping her voice an octave or two as she purrs alternate verses in French and English; which has the capacity to make a man’s heart skip a beat or two.
The other; and initially my first choice, Seashore Roses is an enchanting duet with the man in her life; none other than Martin G Stephenson esq. who knows his place and that’s alongside, if not behind Anna Lavigne’s timeless performance on a song that just cries out to be in a Summertime Blockbuster movie.
I’ve kept Martin’s name to the end; as although he produced the album and co-wrote most of the songs with Anna; this is very much Anna Lavigne’s album and nothing should be allowed to diminish her undoubted talents and …….. rather lovely singing voice.

Released December 22nd 2020

*La Demise De La Bise means that  cheek kissing greeting that the French always use – or used to before covid, so in a way quite unexpectedly relevant! The end of the kissing?


Steve Earle
Champagne Corolla
New West Records

The latest track from Steve Earle’s tribute album to his late son, Justin Townes Earle is available today. Stream “Champagne Corolla” from the forthcoming album, J.T. now. 
100% of the artist advances and royalties from J.T. will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle. While somber in parts, the album is ultimately a rousing celebration of a life lived with passion and purpose.


The Bob Frank Documentary: Bob Frank Within a Few Degrees

Bob Frank Within a Few Degrees:
Light In The Attic

The best summation of Bob Frank comes from songwriter Jim Dickinson:
The best songwriter you never heard,” he famously said.
I first came across Frank some years ago, while researching murder ballads and discovered the album he made with John Murry, World Without End, which is so full of darkness, senseless death, mayhem, and troubled humanity that most folks who hear it can’t make it all the way through, which—to my mind—makes it one of the most beautiful albums of all time, and one of my absolute very favorites.
Trying to find out more about these two elusive songwriters (Murry had yet to release any other music at this point) I came across the one album Frank recorded in the early seventies for Vanguard and was instantly hooked.
His songs were simple, yet fully realized, there was a sincerity in his singing and he had a rather unique way of fingerpicking the guitar that emphasized his vocal delivery. He was as much Rock ‘n’ Roll, as he was Country and Folk.
With each song I discovered myself falling down that rabbit hole, looking for more of Frank’s music, which was hard to come; by but not impossible to find.
Eventually I reached out to Frank himself and interviewed him via email for my blog on songwriting. Frank was honest, humble, courteous, and very forthcoming about the elusive magic of songwriting.
When I heard that someone was making a documentary about him I was elated.
When I heard that he had died from pancreatic cancer rather suddenly I was devastated.
I had never met the man in person, yet talking with him, and listening to his music, I felt as if I knew him to a certain degree.
I am so grateful to Isaac Pingree for taking the time to sit down with Frank and several of the folks who knew him best and create this film. Bob Frank, telling his version of the events that led to Vanguard Records dropping him are pure gold, as is the footage of Frank playing guitar with calm gusto and singing some of his finest songs.
The cornerstone of the whole thing is the 76-minute long documentary on DVD produced by Isaac Pingree, but the icing on the cake are the two compact discs of demos; some recorded by Frank when he was working as a songwriter for hire in Nashville, and some recorded by Frank himself on a cassette recorder after moving to California and working in the Oakland Parks Department.
So what we get from these 37 demo tracks is a few instances of Frank trying to write a song that would work for any up and coming Country artist. His songs aren’t as generic as some of the “written by committee” Country songs we get nowadays, it seems that Frank still couldn’t completely shed his skin in order to eek out a living.
His songs have a whole lot of Bob Frank himself in them, which ain’t a bad thing if you’re writing songs for yourself, but don’t always work if trying to sell them.
We get songs about songwriting itself (“Wailing Mountain Wind“), a few obligatory love songs, songs about folks searching for that one bit of elusive truth which could change their life.
I don’t know for a fact, but I suppose that Frank wrote many of these off the cuff, just spittin’ them out as they came to him, needing to get them down before he lost them.
A songwriting dynamo that’s for sure!
This entire package is a fantastic entry for anyone interested in learning about one of songwriting’s greatest ever, if slightly unknown, musical geniuses, buy it straight from Light in the Attic.


Release Date: December 11, 2020
Review by Roy Peak

Light in the Attic link:…
Documentary website: