"No forced entry, not many clues/ all the answers are way overdue/ it's the mystery that won't go away/ the murder of little Jonbenet." - The Mystery That Won't Go Away. - Larry Rice.

There wasn't much of a mystery when Chris Hillman's sidekick Gram Parsons' body was stolen after he died at 26 on September 19, 1973.

Tour manager Phil Kaufman and little Aussie mate Michael Martin gave Gram an open cask cremation in the desert at Cap Rock near Joshua Pine after snatching him from Van Nuys airport.

They escaped cops after being busted for traffic offences on the way back to Phil's home where Arthur Penn was directing Gene Hackman movie, Night Moves.

"We're making the wrong movie" Hackman retorted when cops belatedly fronted in search of Martin's battered hearse.

A more recent child murder is immortalised on Running Wild - the third album by Hillman, Herb Pederson and Rice Bros - Larry and Tony.

Larry's tune, The Mystery That Won't Go Away, is a dramatic depiction of a media storm - including many books - on the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey on December 26, 1996.

The victim, just six and the child pageant daughter of multi-millionaire couple John and Patsy Ramsey, was murdered in her Boulder, Colorado, home.

No visible sign of a break in was found and the file is still open.

Rice's song may not solve the murder mystery but is accurate barometer of the lyrical growth of bluegrass since Hillman, Pedersen and the North Carolina born Rice clan first worked the California country scene in the fifties.

Chris and Herb, now both 67, have also harmonised together for 50 years after stints with Gosdin brothers, the late Vern and Rex in The Hillmen, and later The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers.

The duo and the Rices recruited Desert Rose Band pedal steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness and Mary Chapin Carpenter drummer Robbie Magruder and pianist Jon Carroll for this dynamic disc that almost escaped.


"I was raised in an innocent age/ a story of love in every page/ a book written true based on the golden rule/ a family you couldn't replace/ goodbye to my old San Antone/ adios to the world I once owned/ just a place in my heart, a memory of old/ adios to my old San Antone." - San Antone - Chris Hillman-Steve Hill.

It kicks of with beatific Hillman-Steve Hill tune, San Antone, and segues into Herb and Chris's duet on the Louvin Bros title track.

Larry Rice sings lead on Lennon-McCartney tune Things We Said Today and rhetorical question to a brazen hussy in vitriolic Jim and Jesse McReynolds spurned lover lament, Hard Hearted.

Chris shared vocal duties with Stephen Stills in Manassas who headlined our 1972 Mulwala pop fest and sings lead on Stills song 4 & 20.

The singer injects Stills suicidal character, reliving a 24-year-old ruptured romance with a credible passion.

Although most of the disc is acoustic, drums and keyboards flesh out five tunes including Buck Owens Take Me Back and Jon Ims tune, Two Of A Kind.

Ims wrote the historic Trisha Yearwood hit She's In Love With The Boy long before she wed Oklahoma superstar Garth Brooks.

Pedersen injects Ims' Texas travelogue, in which a country song on radio is a metaphor for a lover left behind, with true grit.


"Another midnight on the highway, Houston in the distance/ it seems I'm always leaving love behind/ always singing along with someone whose soul is one the radio/ it seems like the good old boy and I are one of a kind." - Two Of A Kind - Jon Ims.

It's a perfect companion song for Chris's Just Passing Through - a tortured travail of a transient love.

Maybe She'll Get Lucky And Forget - a Hillman ode to a spurned victim of a philanderer - features Ronnie and Rickie Simpkins on bass and fiddle and Fred Travers of Seldom Scene on dobro.

As in many of these songs three-part harmonies soar in weary wisdom of Don Wayne oldie It's A Long Way To The Top Of The World.

"It's a long way to the top of the world but it's only a short fall back down."

I wish I listened to this gem more when it first arrived.

It took a Shipwreck Coast sojourn to convince me it was one of the best acoustic bluegrass discs of the decade.

If you like this check out their previous disc Out Of The Woodwork and Herb and Chris's albums, Bakersfield Bound and Way Out West.

If that's not enough try Pam Desbarres 1988 book I'm With The Band in which she named Hillman, Larry Cordle and the late Waylon Jennings among her lovers.

Ironically, Cordle co-wrote Nashville parody Murder On Music Row with Larry Shell and recorded it with his band Lonesome Standard Time.

Texan George Strait and Georgia born Alan Jackson recorded it with Lee Ann Womack and performed it live on the 1999 CMA Awards show.

top / back to diary