Even though widely acclaimed Dobro player Sally Van Meter has been “steadily gone” from Chico since 1980, she thinks of Chico, where her two brothers Danny and Bob still live, as home.
“I come home twice a year, whenever I can get a gig that gets me out there,” the personable Van Meter told me by phone from her home of the past 10 years in Lyons, Colo., only days after returning from a tour of the UK with singer-songwriter Jeff Finlin. “I head straight for the canyon [to brother Danny’s house, the house she grew up in] for a bit of sanity. I still think of it as home.”
Van Meter has reached a level of Dobro playing that has resulted in her recently getting first call over such Dobro hotshots as Jerry Douglas and Mike Aldridge to play The Other Side, the latest album from singer-songwriter- mandolinist-guitarist Chris Hillman. Hillman has been called “one of the architects of country-rock” for his ground-breaking membership in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
During her early days in Colorado, Van Meter was asked to play on stage with Hillman and singer-guitarist-banjo player Herb Pedersen, his fellow Southern Californian and musical buddy (Desert Rose Band, among other joint projects) since 1963. “It was really like jumping into a really big lake and hoping your flippers work!” Van Meter recalled.
Van Meter joins Hillman, whom she describes as “the guy who goes with the flow,” and Pedersen, “the exacting musician,” along with bassist Bill Bryson, “the steady rock,” back on her home turf for a night of California country-rock in the Big Room.
“Sometimes I shake my head and say, ‘Wow—I’m playing with the guy from The Byrds!'” Van Meter laughed.