October 25, 2012
Robin and Linda Williams
These Old Dark Hills
Yes, VirginiaSubmitted by Craig Havighurst
Dear Mother Maybelle,
You were in our thoughts the Loveless Barn Wednesday night, throughout an edition of Music City Roots where your legacy just kept coming up. Virginia artists bookended the show, and the first ones sang about your guitar. Tiller's Folly presented a song inspired by your first recording sessions in Bristol. Tomi Fujiyama, country music matriarch of Japan, picked the "Wildwood Flower." And the night ended with one of your greatest hits. And as for the rest of you, perhaps you already love Virginia, or else maybe last night made you even more of a fan of the Old Dominion. It's produced a lot of presidents and a lot of great musicians.
Robin and Linda Williams have lived in the Shenandoah Valley near Staunton, VA for going on 40 years, and their musical approach of spare, honest folk puts them squarely in the state's legacy, which of course includes the Carter Family, as well as Dock Boggs and the Stanley Brothers. The Williams' song "These Old Dark Hills" from their new album of the same title spoke directly to the ancient landscape they inhabit and love. Then Linda sang a lovely lead on the early and authentic version of "Wildwood Flower" entitled "I'll Twine Mid The Ringlets." Was there ever a sweeter melody? Then came I think their hit of the night, the joyful and swift "Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin" celebrating the amazing juxtaposition of those two iconic instruments at the Country Music Hall of Fame. If you've never seen the exhibit, you must. And if you've never heard Robin and Linda in person, well that too. Their energy is easy but potent. They are sticklers for perfect intonation (pay heed youngsters) and they eschew ornamentation. They are one of the template bands for and exemplary bands of Americana, and this was I hope the first of many visits to Roots by this remarkable duo. Kudos too to their Fine Group, with Chris Brashear on mandolin and fiddle and the veteran Jim Watson on bass and vocals. This was what mastery sounds like.