For the Byrds?

The Chris Hillman Tribute Concerts (Prima Records)

The Coal Porters

By Kevin Gibson

It would be difficult to not like this tribute to the legendary Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers mainstay, Chris Hillman. A key cog in the development of alt-country music (along with Gram Parsons), Hillman is saluted here with bluegrass send-ups of Hillman and Roger McGuinn songs both well-known and not so well-known.

The Coal Porters, a bluegrass ensemble featuring native Louisvillian Sid Griffin (formerly of the Long Ryders), pull off these tunes beautifully and respectfully, not trying too hard to alter the intent, but holding enough sway to give the songs a fresh breath of life.

Recorded partly at WFPK's downtown studios (as part of the Live Lunch series), the album sounds wonderfully crisp from start to finish - kudos to Radio Louisville program director Dan Reed for his hand in this project.

From "I Am a Pilgrim" (from the Byrds' noted Sweetheart of the Rodeo LP) to the Bob Dylan cover "When the Ship Comes In" to the indispensable "So You Want to be a Rock `n' Roll Star?", the Coal Porters turn in solid, if not necessarily life-changing, performances. But I reiterate: it is fairly clear that turning new ground isn't necessarily the goal here; rather, this is a group of musicians having a good time playing music they love.

The Porters clearly were concentrating more on showing their respect than on setting trends. That's a respectable pursuit, just as this is a respectable and enjoyable album.