Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen and John McEuen

Bluegrass is all about the twang

PREVIEW Country-rock pioneer and original Byrds bassist Chris Hillman prepares to throw down some bluegrass with longtime friend, banjo player Herb Pedersen, at Yoshi's SF this week.

As a founding member of the Byrds and later the Flying Burrito Brothers, Hillman was a staple of California's fabled Laurel Canyon music scene during the late 1960s. Although the musician's roots are steeped in bluegrass, it wasn't until meeting his eventual Byrds bandmate Gram Parsons in 1968 that the group took on a significantly unique direction. The Byrds' critically acclaimed Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia, 1968) was a product of the outfit's expansion into country even if it failed to chart. Hillman's full-fledged emergence into the genre has inspired a spectrum of artists, including collaborators such as Emmylou Harris and fans like Beck. I don't think the pedal steel sound heard on Beck's "Rowboat" was even possible without the Burrito Brothers paving the way.

Throw into the mix multi-instrumentalist and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band veteran John McEuen, a.k.a. "America's instrumental poet," and expect Pedersen, who played with Hillman in the Desert Rose Band and paid his dues picking five-string banjo with the likes of Jerry Garcia, to do just that: play some banjo. After all, this is bluegrass we're talking about. Just remember, it's all about the twang.

CHRIS HILLMAN AND HERB PEDERSEN AND JOHN MCEUEN Mon/2–Tues/3, 8 p.m., $30. Yoshi's SF, 1330 Fillmore, SF. (415) 655-5600,

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