Robin & Linda Williams
The venerable folk and acoustiblue duo return with their, by my count, 20th album; it is another that will undoubtedly become cherished by their legion of followers.
Little new ground is broken here, and little does that matter. As they have for thirty-some years, the Williams' sing of love, family, their environment, and whatever else strikes a fancy. “Tied Down, Home Free” takes an irreverent look at long-term commitment, while “I'm Invisible Man” almost moves me to tears. It's lonesome.
“Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin” ("standing there together like they were next of kin") perfectly captures my exact feelings- but so much more eloquently- upon seeing the legendary instruments amongst the gaudy suits, faded pictures, and modern-day memorabilia in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
The long-married couple always sounds fresh and lively, no small part due to the inspiration received from their accompanists. Regular readers will know the names- Tim O'Brien, Tim Crouch, Jerry Douglas- but what is more important is the sound they collectively capture. It is like listening to the perfect living room jam, so natural and unfettered is the music.
Linda and Robin have done it again, releasing another seemingly perfect album of contemporary folk music.
Robin and Linda Williams
Robin and Linda Williams have been making music and recordings for many years, and now have a significant number of excellent albums to their credit. This project, I must say, is the best I've heard by this fine duo. I liked it almost from the first note.
The CD opens with a spirited song, "Going Going Gone," which features the Williams' trademark tight harmony. Next is a light swing-sounding tune about marriage, "Tied Down, Home Free." Its memorable Dobro licks by Jerry Douglas work brilliantly with Tim O'Brien's great instrumentals. The title cut is a catchy song about one man's self-inflicted hard times and the loyalty of an old friend. Though the story is heavy, the song has a happy sound as Linda's melodic clawhammer banjo provides a compelling Irish flavor.
Another reflective song, "Vision Of Mother and Dad," features soft and flowing fiddle work and of course, the impeccable vocal harmonies of Robin and Linda. Linda sings lead on "I'm Invisible Man," another Williams original that speaks for the downtrodden. The harmonica of Ray Bonneville and soft, tasteful lap steel by Jerry Douglas are featured here.
This is a well-crafted album with well-written material, and it should be a definite winner for Robin and Linda. --Johnny Pearce
Robin and Linda Williams
You've heard them on A Praire Home Companion over 3 decades, but you might still see them at a house concert. Despite being the most familiar artists on Garrison Keillor's radio show, Robin and Linda are as genuine and as down to earth as your favorite aunt and uncle. On top of that they are musical poets.
The album begins with a marvelous observation about successful relationships. The best couples give each other freedom which only makes their bond stronger. ("Tied Down, Home Free"). The Williams are also not hesitant to tackle controversy. "I'm Invisible Man" discusses the homeless, raising the point that not everyone is on the streets because they didn't try. Robin told me in our recent interview, which you can hear on Folk Alley, that homelessness, usually ignored, will soon be our problem like it or not. There is also a testimony to famous instruments which you can see in the Country Music Hall of Fame ("Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin.") Though the heroes have left us, their tools remain, and seeing them behind glass is like witnessing the results of an archeological dig.
Like fine wine, Robin and Linda just keep getting better. Producer Tim O'Brien, who plays on almost every song, respected their material, and coaxed the best out of his performers.
There is plenty of variety in the subjects covered, the instruments chosen and the arrangements created. Ask for this bottle of Robin & Linda Williams, as you'll find something to go with any meal.
Robin and Linda Williams
FAIRMONT - They've been performing together nearly four decades; Robin, who had always wanted to make a living as a musician, and Linda, who never saw herself going out on the road as a solo artist.
"When we hooked up in the early '70s, it just seemed the thing to do," Robin said.
Since then, Robin and Linda Williams, also known as Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group, have recorded 20-plus albums. They're touring to promote their newest, "Buena Vista," and will perform at Fairmont Opera House on Feb. 20.
As Robin packed up the van to hit the road, Linda was on the phone discussing the couple's musical roots.
"Robin and I have been playing together since 1973; it will be 36 years in May," she said. "We had been living in Tennessee when we got married, and then moved up to Virginia.
"We started playing a lot of colleges, many that were in the Midwest. That's how we started making connections. We produced our first record in Minneapolis, we met Garrison Keillor and we started on the radio show (A Prairie Home Companion) in 1975. And then we made a bunch of records."
Robin and Linda are almost the exact same age, so their exposure to music was quite similar. Growing up, Linda's parents listened to country, Dixieland and swing. In high school, the music on the radio was rock 'n' roll, but she preferred acoustic folk music, like The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez and later Bob Dylan.
"It was a really exciting time, and I think this is a pretty exciting time as well," Linda said, referring to a renewed passion young people have for folk music.
She saw Joni Mitchell perform live before Mitchell released Circle Game. She learned how to play guitar herself as a 15-year-old.
"I love to play," she said. "I started in college playing in little bars and clubs. I'm not sure I would have gone out on my own, as a solo person. Music was always in my heart and a really big part of my life, but I didn't see myself going on the road and doing it as a living."
Not until she met Robin. He had just been hired out by a national coffee house circuit. When they got married, she thought they would perform for a few years and then settle down.
"It didn't work out that way," she said, laughing. "We got more and more involved in music ... and wanted to get better at our instruments and know more about the roots music of America."
They also were interested in writing their own songs.
"There are songwriters who I think have been very inspirational to us," she said, listing off Townes Van Zandt, Steve Young and Bob Dylan as some of their favorites. "We saw them as being more interesting to us as songwriters than big pop stars."
Their new album, according to Red House Records, is about a colorful cast of characters, from a narrator who loses everything to the homeless to the corrupt businessman.
"I've liked Linda and Robin Williams for years, with their appearances on Prairie Home Companion as regulars," said Tom Dodge, Opera House managing director. "... They have a very mellow sound of course, and it sort of runs the full gamut from folk-bluesy music to pensive bluegrass." The Williamses did appear on the Prairie Home Companion movie, for anyone who wants a sneak preview of their performing style.
For their show in Fairmont, Robin and Linda will be joined on stage by two other musicians, Jim Watson and Chris Brashear.
The group will perform 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at Fairmont Opera House. Tickets are available at the Opera house; $18 for adults and $5 for students.
Americana's premiere couple to play Penfield
They’ve had a career spanning more than 30 years and more than 20 albums, with a healthy share of critical acclaim and the respect of their peers. But to general audiences, the husband-wife folk/country team of Robin and Linda Williams is no household name — unless someone’s talking about that other Robin Williams.
Flying below the music industry’s radar is fine with them, Robin Williams noted from a motel room in Illinois.
“At this point in our lives and in terms of our career, we would not be good artists for a major label, because we’re too set in our ways,” he said, adding, “In one level, why fix things that aren’t broken?”
Indeed. The Williamses are one of the premiere acts in what’s come to be called “Americana,” a designation for artists who draw from folk roots, informed by classic country and bluegrass and blues. Their band — Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group — is a renowned live act, a festival draw that has played everything from the Grand Ole Opry to Mountain Stage to “Austin City Limits.” Their songs have been recorded by such artists as Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall and Irish singer Mary Black, and they’ve been staples of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group — former Red Clay Rambler Jim Watson on bass, vocals and mandolin and, on this tour, Chris Brashear on fiddle — will come to the Rochester area on Saturday, Oct. 18, for a concert at Rochester Christian Reformed Church, presented by the Golden Link Folk Singing Society.
The couple met in 1971 at an open-stage night in the Carolinas, where Linda was teaching school and where Robin grew up.
“We met that night, and we kept getting together,” Robin said. “Friendship turned into a romance, and romance turned into a marriage, and it all turned into a career.”
Their first album, “Robin & Linda Williams,” came out in 1975, the same year they debuted on Keillor’s radio show, a relationship that began when Keillor was solely a regional Minnesota broadcast figure.
Thirty-three years after the debut album, the pair’s latest CD, “Buena Vista,” hits on the partners’ main themes and musical interests. There are songs of love lost and love found (“All Broken Hearts Are the Same,” “That’s the Way Love Goes”); of the South (“Southern Shores”), of forebears both musical (“Maybelle’s Guitar and Monroe’s Mandolin”) and personal (“Visions of Mother and Dad”), of their own relationship ( “For Better or Worse,” “Tied Down, Home Free”).
There’s a ballad of a poor girl murdered by her wealthy fiancé and the town’s reaction to justice denied (“Pretty Polly Williams”) and a topical song that boils an issue, in this case homelessness, down to the personal level (“I’m Invisible Man”). And the first two songs on the disc, “Going, Going Gone” and “Tied Down, Home Free,” exemplify the twin impulses of much country, folk, bluegrass and blues: a yearning to escape, break free, ramble on the one hand; a love for home and family on the other.
“In folk and country music, you’re either longing to get away from home or longing to get back to home,” Robin said, laughing.
It’s a juxtaposition he understands, though: “One of the reasons people like us do what we do is the travel and the life. There’s something about going out and seeing what’s going on in the world — we’re meeting people and talking to people and seeing what’s going on. That on the one hand is exhilarating and we love it — but we can only take it for so long. We have to go home, to our structure and to be with our friends; we can’t at this point in our life be complete gypsies anymore.”
That said, the stage — more than, say, the studio — is their natural musical habitat.
“That’s what we do best, that’s what we like doing,” Robin said, “and what we’ll continue to do as long as we have breath to do it.”
If you go:
WHAT: Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Rochester Christian Reformed Church, 2750 Atlantic Ave., Penfield
ADMISSION: $25 ($20 Golden Link members, free for ages 12/younger)
Buena Vista by Robin and Linda WilliamsBuena Vista is a beautiful collection of acoustic folk music with beautiful harmonies and weather worn string work. This collection is primarily a collection of ballads about characters in the small town of Buena Vista in rural Virginia. Highlights for me are the cover of Lefty Frizzell's "That's The Way Love Goes," and the original tunes "Going, Going, Gone" and "Pretty Polly Williams."
Tower RecordsBest known for their long tenure on the public radio mainstay A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, folk-pop duo Robin and Linda Williams return with the gentle concept album BUENA VISTA. A meditation on small-town life centered on the Virginia town of the same name, the roots of country music (particularly on the outstanding "Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin"), and the joys of growing old gracefully, BUENA VISTA is a relaxed blend of pop, country, folk, and bluegrass. Guests include bluegrass great Jerry Douglas.
New release Buena Vista showcases their finest songwriting to date. An exploration of life's hard times and unexpected joys, these new tunes take us down south to country's bumpy back roads and mountain views.
Inspired by the Virginia town of Buena Vista, the album is about a colorful cast of characters, from the narrator who loses everything in the title track to the homeless "Invisible Man," to the corrupt businessman in "When a Thread Gets Caught." Robin & Linda also explore the real-life characters of Maybelle Carter and Bill Monroe in their song "Maybelle's Guitar And Monroe's Mandolin." This song about their enduring legacy encapsulates what Robin & Linda's music is all about--authentic country music that is down-home and free of "silver-spangled cowboy hats and gold-plated Cadillacs." Whether singing their own gems or the classics, Robin & Linda prove once again that they are the real deal.
Produced by Grammy-winning artist Tim O'Brien, Buena Vista features the duo's high lonesome harmonies and their fiery guitar and banjo picking. O'Brien lent his own superior fiddle, mandolin and guitar talents and assembled some of Nashville's hottest players, including Jerry Douglas (dobro, lap steel), Dennis Crouch (bass), and Kenny Malone (percussion).
According to Robin & Linda, the recording sessions were "filled with true blue trust and faith. No struggle to make things work. No flaws in the fabric. No snags in the cloth. Just the music God made."
Adirondack Daily Enterprise'A Prairie Home Companion' regulars and folk and bluegrass icons on tour in support of latest release
October 15, 2008
SARANAC LAKE - Bluseed Studios will present an evening with folk and bluegrass icons Robin and Linda Williams at the Waterhole in Saranac Lake at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17.
Touring in support of their brand new Red House Records album "Buena Vista," the duo's highly anticipated record celebrates the hard times in life and the good that can come out of it and features some of their finest songwriting to date.
Inspired by the town of Buena Vista (pronounced "byu-na-vista" by locals), their new album is about a colorful cast of characters, from the narrator who loses everything in the title track to the homeless "Invisible Man" to the corrupt businessman in "When a Thread Gets Caught."
Robin and Linda also explore the real-life characters of Maybelle Carter and Bill Monroe in their song "Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin." This song about their enduring legacy encapsulates what Robin and Linda's music is all about - authentic country music that is down-home and free of "silver-spangled cowboy hats and gold-plated Cadillacs." Whether singing their own country gems or classics by Lefty Frizzell ("That's the Way Love Goes"), Robin and Linda prove once again that they are the real deal on this newest recording.
It's the type of performance one might expect from two people who have been at it since 1971, when the couple met. Linda - originally from Alabama - was teaching school in South Carolina while Robin - who grew up in North Carolina - had been making the rounds on the national coffeehouse circuit. It wasn't long before they hit it off romantically. And the uncanny blend of their voices was icing on the cake. These days, they make their home in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Their first album came out on a small Minnesota-based record label in 1975, the same year they debuted on A Prairie Home Companion. Their association with the popular public radio program has landed them on major stages from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. As half of "The Hopeful Gospel Quartet," they have collaborated on several CDs with the show's host, Garrison Keillor, and were prominently featured in the 2006 film "A Prairie Home Companion," directed by Robert Altman.
Produced by Grammy winning artist Tim O'Brien, Robin and Linda's new CD is a radio-friendly mix of traditional country, Americana roots and bluegrass, featuring the duo's high lonesome harmonies and their fiery guitar and banjo picking. O'Brien lent his own superior fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bouzouki talents to the project and also brought together some of the hottest players on today's scene, including Jerry Douglas (dobro, lap steel), Dennis Crouch (bass), Kenny Malone (drums, percussion) and fellow Red House artist Ray Bonneville (harmonica). They recorded the project in Nashville, Tenn., and the music came together easily. According to Robin and Linda, these recording sessions were "filled with true-blue trust and faith. No struggle to make things work. No flaws in the fabric. No snags in the cloth. Just the music God made."
FOLK ROOTS MAGAZINEOctober 2008
BUENA VISTARed House Records RHR CD213
In the days of vinyl I would have received plenty of exercise from this release through constant flipping from side one to two as it was played incessantly for a few days.
Thanks to technology I have to move much less often, if at all, plus I can play it in the car too. But this music would have been appropriate in the vinyl age, as it still is in the time of download, although I can think of no reason why anyone would not want all of the tracks. The Williams husband and wife team have been around for more than 30 years making quality country music, but they have never achieved the heights they do here. Produced by Tim O'Brien who provides tasty instrumental and vocal support and may also be responsible for hiring the exemplary Jerry Douglas, O'Brien ensures all of the parts are in the right place and the right proportions. Robin and Linda contribute 11 really excellent original songs, nicely understated harmony singing, and some solid guitar work.
Most importantly right from the opening bars of "Going, Going Gone," the first track, they are right on the pulse of the music. The timing, the bits they play, and the bits they leave out are perfect. The songs are extremely well crafted, both lyrically and melodically, and even ideas that could bomb out, like the song "Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin" work.
Music with no real commercial aspirations, that exists to be played, enjoyed and will be referred to many times over the years as a classic example of the genre.
VINTAGE GUITAR MAGAZINEJanuary 2009
BUENA VISTARed House Records
A new high point in the careers and music of Robin and Linda Williams, this CD confirms the duo's ability to still deliver fresh and exciting music via stellar original songs and indelible performances.
A studio album backed by some of the best acoustic musicians in the business, "Buena Vista" was produced by Tim O'Brien, who plays fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin and low-strung guitar, and features Jerry Douglas on dobro and Kenny Malone on drums and percussion.
Stylistically, the songs fit in a crevice between bluegrass, old-time/vintage country, and folk. Some, like the title track, have a timeless quality in the melody that sounds at home in places during the last 50 years. But the lyrics on "Buena Vista" have more edge than you normally hear from a country tune. Instead of a drunkard's nostalgic lament from the imbiber's point of view, we get to feel the effects of his addiction on everyone around him.
Other tunes have more conventional subject matter, such as "Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin," which is about Gibson's two most famous instruments. Traditionalists will enjoy the Williams' reworking of the bluegrass standard "Pretty Polly," which morphs into "Pretty Polly Williams," with more detail than the standard version.
The album also spotlights the Williams' superb vocals. On "That's The Way Love Goes" their duel lead vocals twist like wisps of smoke on a still night. "Visions Of Mother and Dad" features Robin on lead while "Going, Going Gone" is led by Linda's strong alto. The Williams' never resort to theatrics to deliver their message; instead, they let the songs unfold at their own pas. - SS
Buena VistaRating 3 1/2
Robin & Linda Williams
What are the odds?
Not only have Robin and Linda Williams been married for more than 30 years, they've also been musical partners for just as long. That same admirable constancy underpins Buena Vista's fine harmonies, clean arrangements and emotional integrity just as it has the duo's 19 earlier albums.
With the exception of Lefty Frizzell's That's The Way Love Goes, the disc's blend of traditional country, Americana and bluegrass is all well-crafted original material. The wry reflection on marriage's ups and downs, For Better Or Worse, has a particular ring of authenticity.
Buena Vista, to be released Tuesday,(September 16, 2008) reveals the duo's southern musical roots and songwriting sensibilities, mixed with their northern folk influences. Unfortunately, the Williams never seem to get as far north as Ottawa.
DROPPING IN ON A FOLK JAM
September 18, 2008
ROBIN AND LINDA WILLIAMS
BUENA VISTA (RED HOUSE RECORDS)
Buena Vista Blues might have been recorded in a studio. But listening to the latest offering from Robin and Linda Williams is like dropping in on a folk jam on the porch of their home in rural Virginia.
In keeping with the spirit of warm conviviality they invited some of their dearest musical friends to join them, including Grammy winner Tim O'Brien, who produced, in addition to Dobro ace Jerry Douglas, bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Kenny Malone and Ray Bonneville on mouth-harp.
Save for Lefty Frizzell's That's the Way Love Goes, all of the songs spanning country, bluegrass and folk are original compositions, co-written by the couple who have been performing together for more than three decades.
The Williams are incapable of releasing anything but fine recordings, and this, their first studio album in four years, proves the point once again.
The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday October 05, 2008, 5:26 AM
Robin and Linda Williams
GRAND RAPIDS -- Take it from half of The Hopeful Gospel Quartet: It's a win-win situation working with Garrison Keillor on "A Prairie Home Companion."
Folk duo Robin and Linda Williams have graced the national radio show for years as part of Keillor's gospel quartet, strengthening their vocal prowess and raising their musical profile in the process. .... Read entire review
Read entire review
Hi Robin & Linda,
Just in Time for my upcoming radio shows, Sept 18th and 25th. I'll be on WERU, East Orland, ME.
I love Buena Vista and can't wait to get some of the songs on the air around these parts!
All the best!
P.O. Box 974
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
I LOVE your new CD! Just listened to it yesterday. Great new bunch of songs. Cool that you had some help from Mr. Tim O and Mr. Douglas, et al. But as always those R&L pipes are as golden and sweet as ever. Keep on rollin'!
"Americana Backroads" (KGLT-FM)
The new album is GREAT! Premiering it here this Saturday night on the Americana show with a three-song set, including the amazing title track.