Sing Out
Spring 2000

Robin and Linda Williams
In The Company Of Strangers

Sugar Hill Records

Robin and Linda Williams invented "Americana" long before it became a radio format. A dollop of country, a soupcon of folk, with highly original seasoning might describe the flavor of their music. It's mostly acoustic, but given extra tang with pedal steel and an occasional electric guitar lick. Produced by Kevin McNoldy, who picks a variety of guitars, and bass, In The Company Of Strangers sustains the energy and drive that have become a trademark of the Williams' recordings.

They also continue their decades long songwriting collaboration with Jerome Clark. The trio penned 11 of the 12 songs on this disc, the distinguished exception being "Cold, Cold Heart," by Hank Williams. They also treat listeners to guest appearances by Tim O'Brien and Mary Chapin Carpenter, along with regular accompanists Kevin Maul and Jim Watson, who's limited to vocals on this recording.

The darkness of many of the songs on this CD prevents mistaking it for mainstream country. Even the more light-hearted songs come tinged with a heavier lining. The songs tell of have-nots, down-and-outs, losers, and those lost on the highway of life, even in up tempo tunes such as "Bar Band In Hillbilly Heaven." However, before you buy a hankie along with the CD, the Williams deliver their songs with vigor and a glimmer of hope between the lines. Sometimes the lively and intricate picking softens the mood, and even attracts attention away from the lyrics.

Robin and Linda are in as good a voice as ever, continuing the perfect duet. They don't try many fancy vocal maneuvers; rather they know exactly how to fill out the lines in an intuitive partnership. Perhaps the most powerful song is their original title song "In the Company of Strangers," which sounds very much like a traditional song. It's simple and direct with an emotional plea many of us can take to heart. Linda's banjo contributes greatly to its sound. The song could easily be a sequel to their early classic "Don't Let Me Come Home A Stranger."

Robin & Linda Williams probably aren't strangers to many folk music lovers, but in any event, they are good musical company.

-- R. Warr