Posted August 18, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Billy Pilgrim Uses Quarantine To Uncover Lost Recording

Billy Pilgrim photo by Michael McLaughlin
Billy Pilgrim photo by Michael McLaughlin

Originally named for a character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, the folk duo Billy Pilgrim released its debut in 1994. In the wake of that release, the band was tapped for numerous high-profile opening slots for acts such as Melissa Etheridge, the Cowboy Junkies, Matthew Sweet and Hootie & The Blowfish.

The duo — Andrew Hyra and Kristian Bush (Sugarland, Dark Water) — thought their final recordings been lost in a studio fire two decades ago, but Bush recently found a remaining copy at his home during quarantine. As a result, the band announced it’ll release the album, which the group has dubbed In the Time Machine, on Sept. 4. It issued its latest single, “Tumblelane,” a ballad with a soaring string arrangement and a nice touch of old-school organ, complete with a special lyric video.

Following the release, the band plans to release a special vinyl edition of the album via Bandcamp. 

After years of embarking on separate dreams, the two friends have reunited to finish what they’ve started, and over the next few months they have a few more tricks up their sleeves to be revealed.

“‘Tumblelane’ is a point, a coordinate where the choice is made clear,” explains Hyra in a press statement. “A choice to live in love, hope, faith, gratitude, abundance and to choose this over fear. I don’t want to live in fear anymore. Fear of a virus, of other people’s opinions, of hatred, money, lack of where have I been? I don’t remember with any clarity if my experience was shrouded in fear. We all have this choice, though most of us don’t know it, right now we are at that inflection point where the choice is clear, Tumblelane choose love over fear; this is the necessary evolutionary expansion we are all up against RIGHT NOW.”

While the song starts in a more intimate, stripped down fashion, it blossoms into a soaring, emotionally powerful rocker.

“When you get caught up in the wave you didn’t see coming and it spins you in the heat of fear, the loss of control shakes you awake,” says Bush. “From that place you have a choice, stand up and breathe or hide in fear of the next invisible wind. In the standing up, as the muscles give and take to hold you steady you can ask in the humblest and mightiest of voices, as you see the horizon, ‘where have I been.’ This song is that to me, I can see Andrew [Hyra] lift off the ground as he sings, and it pulls me up with it. I never question pure emotion when I hear it. It is always true, and it is ringing clear as a bell in this recording. Somehow he uses words as colors and his voice paints with them. This is Billy Pilgrim when we turn on the jet engines and open up the throttle.”

Guests on the album include Brandon Bush (Sugarland, Train) on keyboards, David LaBruyere (John Mayer) on bass, Joey Craig on guitar, and Sigadore “Siggy” Birkis (John Mayer), Marcus Petruska (Corey Davis) and Travis McNabb (Better Than Ezra) on drums. Producer/engineer Don McCollister, who owned Nickel & Dime Studio, co-produced the album along with the Bush brothers and Hyra.

Photo: Michael McLaughlin


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].