For more than four decades now, Robin & Linda Williams have made it their mission to perform the music that they love, "a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism." Today some might call it "Americana," but these two revered music masters were living and breathing this elixir 20 years before that label was turned into a radio format.
As live performers they are second to none. Their stirring concerts have earned them a huge body of fans over the years. But as gifted songwriters Robin and Linda have earned an even rarer honor, the devotion and deep respect of their musical peers. As The Washington Post put it, "The Williamses are able to sum up a life in a few details with moving completeness." The list of artists who have covered their original songs include some of the greats of country music, names like Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea and The Seldom Scene.
"Among contemporary country performers,, Robin and Linda Williams shine like a diamond amid rhinestones ..." __ David W. Johnson, The Boston Globe
Linda is a native of Anniston, Alabama and Robin (the son of a Presbyterian minister) was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. They met and fell for each other in 1971 on a visit to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina while Linda was teaching school and Robin was a full-time musician on a national coffeehouse circuit. It wasn't long before they discovered additional magic when they combined their voices in harmony.
Despite being true children of the South, their career got its initial momentum up north in the Minneapolis folk scene. Robin had made many friends and connections there as a solo artist and in 1975 they recorded their first album in Minneapolis for a local record company. The same year they made their first appearance on a little radio show just getting off the ground called "A Prairie Home Companion" and their rich relationship with that icon of American broadcasting has continued for four decades.
Over the years they recorded several fine albums and continued to crisscross the country, past miles and miles of highway signs, thrilling audiences with their songs and harmonies. Folk and country fans alike loved their honest heartfelt music. In 1989 a major breakthrough came with their signing to Sugar Hill Records, with whom they would go on to record nine albums. It would be a fruitful relationship and, amazingly, each succeeding recording (beginning with 1989's "All Broken Hearts Are the Same") would top the previous one in artistry and quality.
Around the same time, they began to tour with a band, Their Fine Group, and their already big sound grew all the more. 1993 saw increased exposure through a major tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now large national audience of "A Prairie Home Companion." With their career now at its 20 year mark Robin and Linda entered into a prolific period of artistic productivity. Within six years they released their all gospel CD , "Good News", (which garnered two nominations for Gospel Album of the Year). After that, the Williamses released three CD's of predominately original material, beginning with 1996's "Sugar For Sugar" (which spent 13 weeks on the Americana chart). This period of productivity, culminating with 2000's "Company of Strangers," served notice to an ever-increasing audience of Robin and Linda's dedication to their artistry.
Having always sung gospel music, in the late 1980s they teamed up with their old friend and "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor and bluegrass songstress Kate MacKenzie to form The Hopeful Gospel Quartet. This wonderful sideline ensemble has gone on to release two albums and tour the USA, British Isles and Europe.
Robin & Linda have made appearances on such major programs as "The Grand Old Opry," "Austin City Limits," "Music City Tonight," "Mountain Stage" and they continue to make frequent appearances on "A Prairie Home Companion." " ... vocally and instrumentally, the Williamses combine impeccable musical discipline with a bare simplicity and an utter lack of pretension."
__ Stephen Holden, The New York Times
For 25 years they toured constantly with Their Fine Group. Jim Watson has been with Robin and Linda since the beginning on bass, vocals and mandolin. The fourth chair of the Fine Group has been filled with : Kevin Maul on dobro and slide, steel guitar; Jimmy Gaudreau on mandolin and mandola; and fiddle/mandolin player, Chris Brashear. Most often these days Robin and Linda can be heard in concert as a duo, going back to the roots that brought them together 40 years ago.
The Williams' period of productivity has no end. Their 2002 recording, "Visions of Love, " was produced by Garrison Keillor. It garnered a three-star review in USA Today upon its release and received rave notices nationwide. The CD spent several months on the Americana charts and topped the list on several others.
"if we have any two voices better at rendering american music i haven't heard them." victory review.com, February 2002
2003 launched the Fortune - Williams Music Festival. Each Fall, Robin and Linda teamed up with Jimmy Fortune and a few of their friends for a line-up of music fit for a setting like the Frontier Cultural Museum in Staunton, VA. With this single event, they managed to host some of the nation's top musicians for three days of non-stop entertainment until its closing in 2011.
The big item in 2004 was their new move to the prominent independent label, Red House Records. Red House is the Grammy-winning home of several major American roots-based singers and songwriters including Greg Brown, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, Spider John Koerner and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Robin and Linda's 2004 recording, "Deeper Waters," has been reviewed as to "what amounts to nothing short of a masterpiece" by the All Music Guide.
2005 - Finally, a Christmas recording from Robin and Linda! "The First Christmas Gift" has great new Christmas songs of their own composition, as well as songs by John Prine, Roger Miller and Steve Earle. "'The First Christmas Gift' is a breath of fresh air in an overcrowded, cliche-ridden field ..." 'Shotgun Shells On A Christmas Tree' will probably become a bluegrass standard. __ The Washington Post
2005 opened new opportunites for Robin and Linda to be included in Robert Altman's final film, "A Prairie Home Companion." The movie is a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities at the long-running public radio show of the same name. Here, they appeared as themselves and performed "Old Plank Road." Filmed at the Fitzgerald Theater and released in 2006, the movie pooled the talents of four Oscar winners. Critics' general reaction to the film was favorable: Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars, saying, "What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound" and later added the film to his "Great Movies" list.
In 2007 Robin & Linda Williams put together a collection of their best live performances from the hit radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" on a recording appropriately titled "Radio Songs." "Radio Songs is a unique retrospective of one of the most enduring and energetic musical acts of the last few decades." __ Bluegrass Music News Network. "This CD is like going back in time to a day when radio was prominent in every home. MUSIC ROW MAGAZINE writes, "It doesn't get any better than these two entwining their pure voices on a glowing, burnished Carter Family jewel."
Home for Robin and Linda has always been an old frame house built around a log cabin right in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, so in 2008 they released their 20th recording, "Buena Vista,"tunes that take us down south to country's bumpy back roads and mountain views. With this recording the Williamses penned a finely detailed drawing of American characters. "Music and meaning are seamless, genuine, and first-rate, as we have come to expect from this gifted team." __ Dirty Linen
With the revival of Lime Kiln Theater's "Stonewall Country" Robin and Linda put their original tunes on a 2011 recording. Telling the story of the life of Stonewall Jackson, each song represents a different character or mood, and the music shifts accordingly. So there is a bluegrass number, a blues, and any number of songs that resist genre labeling beyond folk. "Robin and Linda Williams handle all of the lead vocals, and portray all of the different characters and moods, proving themselves to be wonderfully flexible singers." Stonewall Country __ Oliver di Place
Keeping with the theme of "home and heartfelt love", the release of 2012's "These Old Dark Hills" shows Robin and Linda's songs focusing on "the places" as much as "the people" in their lives. Their harmony-centric and acoustic approaches to music making ensures that the voices and the lyrics- the stories, characters, and settings- always remain at the fore." _ Fervor Coulee- roots music.
The Williams celebrated their musical legacy in 2013 with the release of their studio album "Back 40" that features fresh treatments of their early classics, many from albums long out of print, and favorites by other writers. Much has changed in the 40 years Robin and Linda Williams have been making music together. "There are constants, too. Especially notable is the couple's unblemished integrity as performers, songwriters and recording artists." __ Correspondent Jack Bernhardt, News Observer
No Depression magazine praises Robin and Linda Williams for creating "music that is both comfortable and thoughtful - a rare combination that explains why and how the Williamses are able to keep on an even keel while musical trends come and go. They don't play at being country - they are country."