The Durango Herald
November 04, 2013

Robin and Linda Williams
Back 40

Redhouse Records

From the 'Prairie' to the mountains

Radio's Robin and Linda Williams to return to Durango for concert

Robin and Linda Williams began their musical journey together in 1971. The duo, playing country, folk and bluegrass, started playing and recording as part of the Minneapolis folk scene. It is now 2013 with 2014 clawing at the door and the couple has yet to slow down, releasing their 23rd album, "Back 40" in late October. They'll be in town Thursday with "Their Fine Band," returning to Durango for the first time in at least a decade. It will be their debut in the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College where the Williamses, who play guitar and banjo, will be backed by Jim Watson on bass and vocals and Chris Brashear on fiddle and mandolin.

The Williams' music has represented the best of Americana since long before the "Americana" genre was coined. Not quite traditional bluegrass, their sound represents the rural side of traditional American folk music; they're an ideal representation of what you might find on NPR affiliates across the country. Which is appropriate, because they have been regular guests on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" since 1976. They even appeared in the Robert Altman film based on Keillor's long-running radio program which airs locally on KSUT-FM.

Yet that is far from their crowning achievement. The Williamses have defied the odds of musical couples; four decades for one couple to make music together is almost unheard of. Chalk that up to hundreds of songs inspired by the history of their adopted state of Virginia, where they also wrote an original play based on the life of Stonewall Jackson that ran for 20-plus years in Lexington. Song content is thick in Appalachia, where you can pick songs from the air the way you pick fruit off a tree, so musical inspiration has never been an issue for Robin and Linda.

"Back 40" is a new record of old cuts recorded during their lengthy career, and includes three choice covers. While the warmth of classic analog recordings originally released on vinyl is something Robin Williams loves, he decided it was time to digitize and re-work some classic Williams material that has remained dormant for decades. It also was a chance to look back at the career as a trip down memory lane and revamp some original tunes from their early days.

"We have several songs from our first three records, songs that never made it to the digital age," Robin Williams said. "They've been forgotten for close to 35 or 40 years. But all these songs that we selected had to meet some stringent criteria. One was (that) we had to have close personal attachment to the song and also we had to feel as if there was a reason for them to see the light of day again. There were several songs friends of ours said 'you ought to do this song.' It was a hard process. I was pleased that we could go all the way back to our first and second record and find songs that we still think are good and deserve to see the light of day. Makes us feel like we were onto something when we started out."

Now 23 records in, Robin and Linda Williams are far from calling it quits. While some musicians 40 years into their career may think about retiring, others are still working full-time. At the end of this fall tour through the West, the Williamses will begin writing record No. 24.

"Right now we're thinking about the next one. We're starting to get our ideas together, we got some time off this winter and that's what we're planning on doing," Williams said. "There's no resting on your laurels in the business. You're only as good as your next record. You have to keep producing."

By Bryant Liggett
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.