March 22, 2000

Robin and Linda Williams
In The Company Of Strangers

Sugar Hill Records

On their new CD, In the Company of Strangers, Robin and Linda Williams continue to write and sing songs that stake a claim in the region that lies somewhere between country, folk, and bluegrass. As on most of their previous records, the instrumentation is acoustic, although they add a tasteful touch of electric guitar and pedal steel to a few tracks.

The sparse arrangements perfectly suit their finely crafted tales of loneliness, heartache, and sweet love turned sour. Two of the best songs on the album, "Bar Band in Hillbilly Heaven" and "The Perfect Country Song," are rueful meditations on the things you have to give up to make a life in music.

Robin and Linda are both fine vocalists whose harmony singing has the same haunting quality of the old-time vocal duos like the Louvins or the Delmores. Mary Chapin Carpenter adds backing vocals on a couple of tracks, and multi-instrumentalist Tim O'Brien lends his fiddle and mandolin to a few songs as well. Although Robin and Linda are far from unknown--they are regular guests on Garrison Keillor's radio show "A Prairie Home Companion"--they deserve to be more widely heard.

By Michael Simmons