Country Music
June/July 2000

Robin and Linda Williams
In The Company Of Strangers

Sugar Hill Records

Robin and Linda Williams are certifiable servants of country music. With no prayer of broad commercial success and little view ahead of them but road and more road, they've played and written some of the sweetest acoustic music available in venues around America and the world for more than 20 years. Their engaging humor and sheer love of music make them one of the best gig tickets you can get your hands on.

It's hard to ask this married musical couple to achieve the same personable warmth on CD, that they do live, but the Williamses make excellent records nonetheless, and "In The Company Of Strangers" doesn't disappoint. A dozen typically eclectic originals (save for Linda's poignant take on "Cold, Cold Heart") are collected here, backed by organic and tasteful instrumentation.

Robin and Linda draw from their large pool of talented friends for support, including the voice of Mary Chapin Carpenter, the fiddles of Tim O'Brien and Stuart Duncan, and the sensitive dobro playing of Kevin Maul. But this duo is about voices -- his mature and joyful, hers an appealing, full-throated folksinger's instrument with a hint of velveteen rasp. His meandering melody shines on "So It Goes," and they stick it to Music Row (it's a big year for that) with "The Perfect Country Song." How fitting for these troubadours that the CD begins and ends with road songs.

"Your highways are full of dreams and dangers/Keeping me in the company of strangers," they sing on the title track. It's a study in restlessness that perhaps explains part of what drives the Williams duo. They seem to love the road and their audiences; no one who meets them in concert remains a stranger for long.

__ Craig Havighurst