Schenectady Daily Gazette
July 22, 1996

Robin and Linda Williams
Sugar For Sugar

Sugar Hill Records

SCHENECTADY - With gracious exaggeration, Mona Golub of Second Wind Productions credited Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group for bringing fine weather to their free show in Central Park Sunday.

Whoever brought the perfect weather deserves no more praise than this veteran quartet, who brought music with the same freshness as the breeze that cooled the sunny park Sunday afternoon.

"We drive for a living," proclaimed Linda to introduce "On and On" their second song Sunday, "you could hardly call this work."

Everything they played and sang seemed effortless, charged with the buoyant effervescence of bluegrass, the bedrock sincerity of country, and the serenity of gospel often more than one of these strengths at once.

They sang nearly all of their current (and 13th) album "Sugar for Sugar" Sunday, bringing in a healthy dose of gospel in the middle of each of their two hour-long sets, and sketching the outlines of a broad repertoire by recalling fims' favorites.

They nodded ironically to the sunny, cool weather with "Together All Alone" about being contentedly snow-bound. They made the Iyrics work nicely. "I'm not worried about the weather, the weather's gonna do just what it wants. I'm just glad to be together, together all alone."

Their music generally is about the togetherness of life and musical partners, and although it portrayed plenty of sweetness Sunday, their music was also robust and humorous .

Their sound is a tight weave of Robin and Linda's acoustic guitars, Jim Watson's electric bass and Schenectadian Kevin Maul's dobro; Robin's guitar and Maul's dobro contributed the solos Sunday.

Robin is a good singer, Linda is a terrific one; and the band's harmonies hung as tight as their playing Sunday.

Their material ranged from the simply sincere to the humorously iconoclastic to the sanctified. "The Cheapest Kind" celebrated grandparents impoverished in material terms but rich in love. "Traffic Light" told the tale of a cantankerous GTO-driving oldster expressing his hatred for "progress" by defiantly roaring through a traffic signal. They sang "He's Coming Again So Soon" and "Do You Want To Go To Heaven When You Die" with such strong fervor they didn't need instruments.

Donning her banjo, Linda enjoined the band to play "Border Bound" "as fast as we can play it," which was very fast indeed. And the bluegrass instrumental that followed, the Flying Burrito Brothers' fleet "Beat the Heat," flew almost as quickly, with the always solid Maul playing flashy runs and rolls.

They payed tribute to their musical ancestors on "High Atmosphere," about the heroes of bluegrass, and "Rollin' and Ramblin' - the Death of Hank Williams," but only after their wonderfully ironic "Old Wyatt," about the haunted last days of Western hero Wyatt Earp. Tradition, for them, is both path and trampoline: they can follow, or fly high in new directions from it.

Only during the encore of "Leaving Train" did Robin and Linda ask the huge, happy audience to sing with them. And as Maul picked out high harmonics on his dobro, hundreds of voices carried the melody.

__ Michael Hochanadel