April 5, 2002
Robin and Linda Williams
Visions Of Love
Sugar Hill Records
After 27 years of work with Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor, Robin & Linda Williams have finally enlisted him as an album producer. The result is Visions of Love, the finest of their 13 albums, caressing yester-year's chestnuts in a spare setting that lets the Shenandoah Valley duo penetrate to their songs' hearts. A restrained air of sweet tristesse prevails from Visions of Love's opener (a variant of The Carter Family's "Wildwood Flower") down through songs by, or associated with, The Louvins, Hank Williams, and Merle Haggard. For a surprise (as Hank Williams III just did), they close with a Bruce Springsteen cover.
Jimmie Rodgers' buoyancy carries a remake of his "Mississippi Delta Blues." Just as The Carters did parlor songs alongside country blues, the patriotic "Keep The Home Fires Burning" gets a genteel piano treatment between two arresting ballads of deepest Appalachian fervor, where Peter Oustroushko's fiddle enhances the tension.
Though the heary Linda sings more than her husband Robin, his moments are powerful. As far back as Dixie Highway Sign (June Appal, 1979), the Williamses have put our respectable discs with moments of brilliance, such as "Rollin' And Ramblin'" on All Broken Hearts Are The Same (Sugar Hill, 1988). Miles and miles of highway signs and an emergency appendectomy later, they've at last delivered the precious jewel they have long hinted at.
__ Bruce Sylvestor