November 23, 2013

Robin and Linda Williams
Back 40

Redhouse Records

Revisiting 40 years

Much has changed in the 40 years Robin and Linda Williams have been making music together.

The industry has evolved from analog to digital recording. Vinyl has given way to CDs and mp3s, and mom-and-pop record stores are nearly extinct with the rise of iTunes and other electronic means of marketing.

There are constants, too. Especially notable is the couple's unblemished integrity as performers, songwriters and recording artists. Steeped in the traditions of old-time country and golden-age honky-tonk, "Back 40" revisits songs the couple recorded on 22 albums over the past four decades, bringing them timelessly into the 21st century. Their songs chronicle dreams and dreamers encountered in 40 years of highway miles. The journey begins with "On and On," the couple embracing each other and their chosen path: "After all that we've been through/This old love is good as new/It keeps driving me and you/On and On."

Along the way, they pass "Dixie Highway Sign," travel through "Pine County," sing the ballad of "Henry Brown and Jane Saroo," and reflect upon "The Old Familiar House on Christmas Day." Also featured are songs by Hank Williams ("My Sweet Love Ain't Around"), Bob Dylan ("Boots of Spanish Leather"), and Joni Mitchell's seasonally apt "Urge for Going."

"Back 40" boasts strong North Carolina connections. Robin Williams was born in Charlotte; Chapel Hill's Jim Watson contributes his harmony vocal to "The Other Side of Town," and Durham resident Chris Brashear lends his considerable gifts on fiddle and mandolin.

Correspondent Jack Bernhardt