Chris Hillman was recently elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Byrds, but on Monday at the Crazy Horse Steak House in Santa Ana, he made a case for the 5-year-old Desert Rose Band's future election to the Country Music Hall of Fame. When it comes to the kind of exquisitely intertwining harmonies that helped earn the Byrds their place in the history books, there's no modern-day proponent as accomplished as this group.
Overall, the 65-minute first set was pretty much loose in all the right places (off-the-cuff stage banter that proved the musicians are, indeed, just human) and tight in all the right places (blazing instrumental passages and vocal purity that often made you wonder).
If the performance was pretty much Desert Rose business-as-usual, it suggested the band's next phase may emphasize even more the second half of its country-rock label. Two new songs introduced were driving rockers. One, "Come a Little Closer," teeters too close to rock cliche for comfort, something this group avoids for the most part.
What helps set the Desert Rose Band above the field is the way its songs skillfully expose various facets of the struggle to find, recognize and then hold on to something real, be it a love, a family or the truth.