Saint Paul Pioneer Press
"Williamses Spread Warmth and Hope"
February, 2000

Robin and Linda Williams
In The Company Of Strangers

Sugar Hill Records

Just when my enthusiasm for winter reaches its nadir and spring seems hopelessly far away, along comes a new record by Robin and Linda Williams to spread warmth and hope.

For a quarter-century and through 15 albums, these "children of the South" have been spreading the acoustic gospel of folk with timeless songs about the land and its people and their joys and tribulations. Along with Their Fine Group (charter Red Clay Rambler Jim Watson and Kevin Maul), they've signed on acoustic stalwarts Tim O'Brien, Stuart Duncan, John Jennings and guest Mary Chapin Carpenter for a fine set of new tunes.

The first songs, at least, form a kind of cycle from either side of what could be a busted relationship. In any case, they certainly tell of some lonely folks. Things kick off with "The Hard Country," a tale of a drifter that lives up to its name musically. Then there's a guy who barely avoids a fight at the VWF, and a gal who walked out and is trying to drown her sorrows.

Then there's a great tune ("Bar Band in Hillbilly Heaven") about life and desperation on the road (at first I thought that band included "fiddle, steel drum and mandolin, but that would have been a Calypso band in hillbilly heaven, a whole other deal; it's a "fiddle, steel, drum and mandolin").

And there's a great, mournful reading of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" that truly aches.

What was that I said about warmth and hope? Hey, at least they're still around to sing about it.

-- James M. Tarbox