Dirty Linen
Dec' 96 / Jan '97

Robin and Linda Williams
Sugar For Sugar

Sugar Hill Records

During their 20-plus years together, this Virginia dou has defined the art of intertwining strong voices around will-chosen songs and having a lot of fun in the process. Sugar For Sugar is a typical Williams mix - some high lonesome country sounds, a touch of gospel, a couple songs just for fun, and a couple that are more serious. As usual, the Williamses and their guitars are joined by Their Fine Group, who are Kevin Maul on slinky Dobro and Jim Watson on electric bass, plus several instrumental guests.

The tilte song is sly, swinging take on the eternal country theme of love gone wrong, braced by harmonies from a chorus of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Tim and Molly O'Brien. There's a happily opposite perspective in the slow, sweet "Together All Alone," about the pleasures of being snowbound with the right person and a supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon when "the wind is howling like Miles Davis gone insane." "High Atmosphere" is high flying mountain gospel reinforced by Stuart Duncan's fiddle, and "Traffic Light" a good natured ode to highway anarchy with a catchy chorus. A very different mood comes from "The Brimming Glass," a somber, stark narrative of an alcoholic who's driving drunk, who says he's "gone too far to ever come back." There's right-on duo singing on almost every track. Eleven of the 12 songs are Williams originals; the exception is a heartfelt cover of Greg Brown's "The Cheapest Kind." "This is fine rural American roots music from two people who feel its soul.

_ Tom Nelligan (Waltham, MA)