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Chris Hillman’s starry résumé—Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, etc.—makes him something of a country-rock Forrest Gump. But before he started making all the right scenes, Hillman was picking and grinning his way around Los Angeles in a traditional bluegrass quartet, the short-lived Golden State Boys. Sugar Hill has just re-released The Hillmen, a batch of the band’s recordings from 1963-64. (Probably for cynical, commercial reasons, GSB was renamed post-breakup.) According to the CD’s liner notes, the entire collection was done live in the studio on a three-track deck. But bluegrass, much like blues or punk, is a medium where lo-fi production rarely gets in the way. The album finds a young Hillman playing a very nimble mandolin—his work on the Gosdin brothers’ instrumental “Back Road Fever” is eye-opening enough. But from a musicological standpoint, the most alluring attribute of The Hillmen is the band’s treatment of other writers’ works: Along with the expected slew of traditional reels and Bill Monroe tunes, the album contains a pair of Bob Dylan cuts. It’s no small praise to say that the Dylan material fits right in. Hillman’s subsequent, more famous bands practiced the same sort of genre melding GSB showcases here. The exuberance and technical wizardry so evident on The Hillmen makes Hillman’s recent alliance with the blatantly mainstream country combo Desert Rose Band seem odd, even regrettable.