SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 1995

Robin and Linda Williams
Good News

Sugar Hill Records

The chief good news, of course, is to be found in the Gospel. But for R&L fans the release of any new album is plenty of good news, too.

Steeped in the tradition since childhood--Robin's father was a minister for more than 50 years --the Williamses have most recently been recording as part of the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, which also features Garrison Keillor and Kate MacKenzie. But that's always been sort of an offshoot of "A Prairie Home Companion," (which, coincidentally, they've been part of for nearly 20 years). This is their first real venture into full-time gospel, and the results are, well, heavenly.

Among the 15 songs here are a couple of originals, and a handful of traditional songs given the Williams touch, and others by such seemingly disparate songwriters as A.P. Carter, Townes Van Zandt and Bob Nolan. And they cross stylistic lines from traditional Appalachian string-band music to African-American vocal play that will thrill a cappella fans.

Rounding out Their Fine Group are bassist Jim Watson, a founding member of the Red Clay Ramblers, and Kevin Maul on dobro and Hawaiian and slide guitars. The Williams employ their trade mark understated simplicity on both the arrangement and singing, which offers the message of the song to flower fully.

We might be in the midst of Lent; but this disc is proclaiming its joy early.

--James M. Tarbox