November 12, 2013
Robin and Linda Williams
Robin and Linda Williams have been at the forefront of acoustic-based American folk, country, and bluegrass music since the 1970s and (thankfully) show no sign of let up. Among those who they can count as fans there's Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris and Tim O'Brien and that is just for starters; plus producer Jim Rooney (Nanci Griffith, Iris Dement, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Townes Van Zandt, Tom Paxton, Hal Ketchum etc) who takes the reins on Back 40. The end result is yet another gem by both parties.
Featuring the stellar musicianship of Their Fine Group members Jim Watson vocals ("The Other Side Of Town") and Chris Brashear on mandolin, fiddle to go with that of Al Perkins (Dobro, pedal steel, Kona slide guitar) who are all over the record, Todd Phillips (upright bass) plus Robin (acoustic guitar) and Linda (banjo) the vocals are woven together in a fashion where the listener doesn't feel a need to chose one against the other as lead. For no matter who it is at the helm it is the seamless harmonies that inevitably take the honours. Unselfishly, aiding each other the 14-tracks raced past me before I knew it. The stamp of a great record it their ever were one.
Southern-born and bred, Robin (North Carolina) and Linda (Alabama) not only are fine performers, but songwriters, their stories, observations of life and look at olden times and immaculate covers of Joni Mitchell's "Urge For Going" (which is given a new life), Bob Dylan's "Boots Of Spanish Leather" (powered by banjo) and Hank Williams' haunting classic "My Sweet Love Ain't Around" give the record (as ever) a rock solid foundation. Wistful reflections, sombre tales and such jaunting road songs as "Dixie Highway Sign" and with Linda's sweet, firm lead moving through "Green Summertime" as she speaks of her little town in a melancholy, graceful like fashion the listener is spoilt. Of an epic nature "Adam Rude" takes the listener on an adventure that dates back to American Indian days and familiar betrayals of trust and of how greed took over.
For pretty, seamless melodies and harmony vocals to match "The Other Side Of Town" where 'sweet must plays, and dancers glide through the air, old friends embrace, and live with no cares'; laced in mandolin, guitar, bass, gentle steel and the additional voice of Watson the unique, hard touring duo just about eclipse them all. To close the album Linda weaves her way, effortlessly through a fiddle swept "Henry Brown & Jane Saroo". An album they thought to be a good time to re-record some of their old songs, those lost on vinyl and some others no longer current, and like on their other twenty odd albums it works!