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Robin & Linda

2007 - 2008 Reviews: Radio Songs

Redhouse Records
November 6, 2007

Radio Songs
__ Favorites on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and prominently featured in the recent Robert Altman film, Robin & Linda Williams have finally put together a collection of their best live performances on the hit radio show. Culled from their on-air appearances over the last 20 years, Radio Songs features 19 standout songs that showcase Robin & Linda's signature blend of bluegrass, gospel, folk and old-time country. With special guests The Hopeful Gospel Quartet, Mike Seeger, Mountain Heart, Guy's All-Star Shoe Band and Peter Ostroushko!

All Music Guide
James Christopher Monger,

Radio Songs collects 19 performances from harmonious husband and wife folk legends Robin & Linda Williams, all of which are culled from the riches of Garrison Keillor's popular NPR radio program A Prairie Home Companion. The duo first appeared on the show in 1975, and while the selections that populate Red House's Radio Songs compilation may only reach as far back as 1993 ("Other Side of Town" with the Hopeful Gospel Quartet), the timelessness of both the music and the show itself keeps everything awash in the same sepia-tone glow. Fans who are already familiar with the duo's impressive repertoire will love having a copy of the live versions of longtime favorites, but many of the tunes on Radio Songs were performed only once, making this essential listening for devotees of both APHC and Robin & Linda Williams.


Bluegrass Music News Network,
Nov. 16, 2007

Red House Records announced the November 6, 2007 release of Radio Songs, the long-awaited collection of Robin & Linda Williams' best live performances on Garrison Keillor's popular radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Culled from their on-air appearances over the last 20 years, this new CD features 19 standout songs handpicked by Robin & Linda that showcase their signature blend of bluegrass, gospel, folk and old-time country. This satisfying collection includes original favorites and covers of songs by some of their songwriting heroes--The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Charlie Poole and Lefty Frizzell. Digging deep into their catalog, Robin & Linda's selections include songs that date back to their 1977 release ("Restless One") to songs never before recorded, like the often requested "50,000 Names," which was originally worked up for a special Memorial Day show. Other highlights include the down-home country tune "Things I've Learned," the nostalgic World War II-era song "We'll Meet Again" and the comedic radio advertisement for "Marvin & Mavis Smiley - Down Home Diva." Showcasing the duo's humor, warmth and raucous roadhouse sensibilities, Radio Songs is a unique retrospective of one of the most enduring and energetic musical acts of the last few decades.




Robin and Linda Williams
Radio Songs
(Red House)

by Dave Heaton
PopMatters Associate Music Editor

Garrison Keillor's variety show A Prairie Home Companion evokes different reactions in me depending upon the type of segment on when I tune in. The humorous skits make me hastily and forcefully turn the radio off, annoyed that public radio lives up to its reputation for corniness. Keillor's stories of life in the fictional Lake Wobegon may get me to stay, depending on my mood. But the music always hooks me. Whether it's Keillor, with his lovably everyday voice, singing or a guest, the musical portion of the show is in touch with the rich country, folk, bluegrass and gospel heritage of America.

Robert Altman's film version of A Prairie Home Companion drew much of its emotional force from the choice to focus on the musical side of the show, over the skits. Along with its stable of Hollywood actors, the film featured radio show "regulars". Among them were Robin and Linda Williams, a husband-and-wife duo whose first appearance on the show was in 1975, the year after its debut. The Williams' first album together was also released in 1975. After that they released another 17 albums and appeared on the show numerous times. Radio Songs, their 19th release, summarizes that side of their career by collecting together 19 performances that aired on A Prairie Home Companion, during nine shows recorded between 1995 and 2005.

Radio Songs is a time capsule as much as a music collection, then. It captures specific moments at particular places and times. The places include historic venues like The Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, the nearly 100-year-old theater where the radio show debuted, and the immortal Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The musicians playing with the duo depended on who else was on the show that day. They're joined by Mountain Heart, by Pete Seeger's half-brother Mike Seeger, by the show's house band Guy's All-Star Shoe Band, by Keillor himself. And the music itself is a look towards the past, either in style or actual heritage. The songs reflect the history of American folk music. One song, "I'll Twine Mid the Ringlets", dates to 1860. Others are undated traditional songs, or numbers by legendary songwriters like A.P. Carter or Charlie Poole. And the songs written by the Williams themselves are in this same vein, with an understanding of not just the musical style but also the human concerns of the songs themselves.

There's a deep sadness to so many of these "old time" songs, spurred on by loneliness, heartbreak or a sense of homelessness. A.P. Carter's "By the Touch of Her Hand", sung with shattering directness by Linda Williams, describes "days so dark" amid "lonesome pines", as lovers are separated. "I'll Twine Mid the Ringlets" tells a similar tale, with Williams again at the lead, singing "my visions of love have all faded away." Late in the album, a "Home, Sweet Home Medley" of what Robin Williams describes as "old sentimental ballads", including Jimmie Rodgers' "Daddy and Home", Left Frizzell's "Mom and Dad's Waltz" and the traditional "Precious Memories", look nostalgically back to childhood through a lens of present-time sadness.

That looking backwards to "home" is often paired with a looking forward to a future sense of home. The hope that balances the sadness of these songs is so often a spiritual hope, a belief that the pain of life gives way to the joy of the afterlife. 1995's Good News was a gospel album, and Robin & Linda Williams have often sung, and written gospel songs. Several of their original songs here reflect this spiritual longing for a place of comfort; what one song title refers to as "The Other Side of Town". Their version of the sometimes schmaltzy 1939 song "We'll Meet Again", recorded for a show featuring songs of World War II, takes on a spiritual quality, both due to Linda Williams' singing of it and the song coming after their acapella rendition of the gospel song "Feed My Sheep". Their "So Long, See You Tomorrow" takes the same "see you soon" sentiment and makes it explicitly about the afterlife, with the protagonist confessing life's regrets and dreaming of a "morning free from sorrow".

This combination of current-day struggle with the hopeful promise of a peaceful future is integral to these old-time songs, and to the undercurrent of melancholy that runs through A Prairie Home Companion, even at its hokiest. There's always that sense that you laugh, and sing, to express the tears you dare not cry. Robin and Linda Williams are not free from hokum themselves; the CD ends with their radio-skit personas Marvin and Mavis Smiley doing a jokey bluegrass run-through of music from classic, and, not coincidentally, tragic, operas. Yet the straightforward, reverent way that they tackle traditional folk music expresses an appreciation for this style of music and the circumstances driving it. Radio Songs displays an understanding of hard times equal to an understanding of the way people use music to get by and rise above, together.



"Radio Songs" is another fantastic CD by Linda and Robin Williams. They have succeeded once again in giving the best of their talents. Each song has been performed on the radio and this CD is like going back in time to a day when radio was prominent in every home. Of special note is their acoustic rendition of "50,000 Names" which is a hanuting song about the Vietnam War Memorial Wall . This CD should be in your collection of Americana music. Well worth every penny!



Kitchener, ON

November 08, 2007

ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS RADIO SONGS (RED HOUSE RECORDS) Robin and Linda Williams are longtime regulars on A Prairie Home Companion. If you've never listened to the singing and songwriting spouses on Garrison Keillor's popular radio show, have no fear. You're now in luck, thanks to Radio Songs. Gleaned from 20 years of on-air appearances, the album assembles 19 songs handpicked by the Williamses and features guest appearances by Mountain Heart, Mike Seeger, The Hopeful Gospel Quartet, Their Fine Group, Guy's All-Star Shoe Band and Peter Ostroushko, in addition to the mellifluous-voiced Keillor. Whether performing their own songs or covering traditionals and such chestnuts as A.P. Carter's By the Touch of Her Hand and Lefty Frizzell's Mom and Dad's Waltz, the Williamses demonstrate why they are viewed as Americana music treasures.


CASUAL LISTENING EXTRA, THE NEXT DAY Casual Listening Extra 11-9-07

Casual Listening


November 9, 2007

Robin & Linda Williams- Radio Songs (folk)

Sweet harmonies from the perennial folk duo recall the golden age of country radio. These are all live performances from A Prairie Home Companion and other assorted public radio programs. Close your eyes and picture yourself listening to a 1940's version of the Grand Old Opry, or a clear channel broadcast of the Carter Family.



ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS, Radio Songs (Red House/Festival) This set of bluegrass, old-time country and parlour songs, culled from a decade's worth of appearances on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, features the couple's glorious harmonies and ends with a hilarious country and western opera spoof. ***1/2

--Mike Regenstreif



Writer: A.P. Carter; Producer: Robin & Linda Williams/Chris Frymire; Publisher: Peer, BMI; Red House (track)

- Radio Songs is a compilation of Robin and Linda's performances on A Prairie Home Companion. Believe me, it doesn't get any better than these two entwining their pure voices on a glowing, burnished Carter Family jewel like this. Mike Seeger's autoharp is the diamond chip in the setting. Elsewhere on the 19-song CD, the duo is sometimes joined by Mountain Heart or by the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, the latter of which includes show host Garrison Keillor. It's all enchanting.



It's an apt combination: trad troubadours Robin and Linda Williams - backed by fellow folkies Peter Ostroushko, Mike Seeger and Mountain Heart - cover a weathered, rustic selection of gospel, bluegrass and back-porch ballads from the airways environs of A Prairie Home Companion. With performances culled from the last 10 of their nearly 35 years of Prairie Home appearances, inspiration is plucked from the backwaters of the heartland. Song such as "By The Touch Of Her Hand," "The Other Side Of Town" and the nine-minute-plus "Home Sweet Home Medley" reflect a more sobering and scholarly perspective, but the tearstained tribute to the Vietnam memorial, "50,000 Names," provides a haunting connection to contemporary circumstance. The alvum ends with a hilarious send-up of alter egos Marvin and Mavis Smiley's wacky "Down Home Diva," a faux commercial that paves the transition from opera to Opry.
- Lee Zimmerman


The Washington Post
-DECEMBER 28, 2007

ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS"Radio Songs"Red House

ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS first appeared on Garrison Keillor's public-radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion," in 1975, just a year after the program debuted. The Virginia husband-and-wife folk singers have been frequent guests ever since, even forming the Hopeful Gospel Quartet that included Kate MacKenzie and Keillor himself. It's not hard to discern why Keillor kept inviting the Williamses back. Their combination of irreverent humor and genuine affection for small-town America echoed the host's own "Lake Wobegon" monologues. Now the duo has collected 14 of its favorite performances from "A Prairie Home Companion" on a new album, "Radio Songs." The bits, from 1993 through 2005, include five originals and two extended medleys. Six were recorded with the Williamses' regular band, plus there are collaborations with the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, the bluegrass band Mountain Heart, old-time musicians Mike Seeger and Peter Ostroushko, and Keillor's house musicians, Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. Whether it's the moving Vietnam Memorial ballad, "50,000 Names," or the hilarious sendup of late-night TV ads for country records, the disc is the perfect souvenir from years of radio pleasure.

-- Geoffrey Himes


Folk Wax
-January, 2008

ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS"Radio Songs"Red House

Though Robin and Linda Williams have been at this Folk/Country/Bluegrass/Americana thing for three decades now, they'd never made a retrospective album of their work. It stands to reason that when they got around to that idea they'd find an unusual way to go after it, which they have; this is a nineteen-track collection of music selected from live recordings the duo has done over the years for the American Public Media radio show Prairie Home Companion. This means that they enjoy the contributions of some fine guests, including Mike Seeger and the members of Mountain Heart. The focus, however, is quite naturally held by Robin and Linda and especially their fine harmonies and outstanding duets.

There are Gospel songs, including "Feed My Sheep," and Bluegrass music such as "Blue Ridge Cabin Home." There's also "50,000 Names," which hasn't been released on record before, and music from their own back catalogue, such as "Restless One," which they first recorded in 1977.

The disc closes with two very different but equally engaging medleys. The first, "Home Sweet Home Medley," comprises five songs on that theme, while the second, "Down Home Diva" - well, if you've every wondered how "Ole Sole Mio" or the "Toreador Song" would sound done in straight-ahead Bluegrass style, here's your chance.

Kerry Dexter


Radio Songs
Red House RHR CD 204 (2007)

Like a chocolate bar wrapped with instructions to "open in case of emergency" when the craving hits, this CD is just what you need when you hear the signoff at the end of "A Prairie Home Companion" and you're left wanting more. Robin and Linda Williams are well-known "unknowns" from their regular radio gig; millions listen to them every week, yet still don't relate the Williams moniker on an album cover or concert flyer with the "PHC" folks. This collection of songs from the radio show is a terrific assortment that showcases the range of Robin and Linda Williams' abililties, from folk to gospel to 40s pop to the humorous sendup of "Down Home Diva," opera sung in a bluegrass vein. The 19 tracks include "50,000 Names" from a Memorial Day show, a touching tribute to the lives commemorated on the Vietnam Memorial; "Feed My Sheep,"  a lively a cappella traditional gospel tune done in a trio with Jim Watson, a regular member of "Their Fine Group", "Blue Ridge Cabin Home," featuring members of bluegrass group Mountain Heart; some old-time tunes made famous by the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers; and several tunes penned by the Williamses themselves. Robin and Linda Williams offer extraordinary tuition in how to "make a joyfull noise." Listen and learn.

Susan Hartman
Dirty Linen Magazine
February/March '08 #134


The News & Observer
Sunday, December 23, 2007

Collection compiles "Prairie" tunes

Since marrying and beginning their music career together in 1973, Robin and Linda Williams have earned a legion of faithful followers. One of their most loyal fans is Garrison Keillor, of National Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion."

The Williamses have appeared regularly on the show since 1975, and have toured and performed with Keillor in the Hopeful Gospel Quartet. In the liner notes to "Radio Songs" (Red House), the artists state that the album's 19 tracks are a compilation of some of our favorite performances on the show."

Performances are drawn from nine shows recorded between 1995 and 2005. They feature Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Group, along with guest artists and the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band (APHC's house band).

The album begins with the Flatt and Scruggs standard "Blue Ridge Cabin Home," with accompaniment by the acclaimed bluegrass sextet Mountain Heart. "By the Touch of Her Hand" follows, with Mike Seeger's delicate autoharp recalling the air of the Carter Family's original.

Compassion and longing, hope and redemption inform such radio songs as their own "The Other Side of Town." The Williamses sing about the joys of home with a medley of favorites, including "Home Sweet Hoe," "A Mother's Prayer," "Daddy and Home," "Mom and Dad's Waltz" and "Precious Memories." And with Jamie O'Hara's "50,000 Names," they pay tribute to the dead who are eulogized on the Vietnam War Memorial.

Former Red Clay Rambler and current Fine Group bassist Jim Watson appears on several tracks. He sings lead on "Feed My Sheep," an a cappella gospel song, and on Charlie Poole's "If the River Was Whiskey (Hesitation Blues)."

"Radio Songs" captures the warmth and charm of Robin and Linda Williams" live shows. It draws its lessons from the past, while pulsing with relevance for modern times.

Jack Bernhardt

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