Robin and Linda Williams
Devil Of A Dream
Sugar Hill Records
"for love and music"
It all started, simply enough, in 1973 at an open-mic night in a South Carolina club. Two performers met and made a connection -- both musically and romantically. Twenty-five years later, after their marriage, thousands of miles on the road, and 14 albums, Robin and Linda Williams still make the connection, night after night, in front of audiences from London to Long Beach.
Best known for their tight, intertwining harmonies and upbeat stage rapport, Robin and Linda Williams play music inspired by such old-time bluegrass groups as Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers as well as southern gospel music. These days, the best description of what they play may be alternative country. Linda quips, "We were alternative country when alternative country wasn't cool."
After 25 years of playing professionally, Linda says it best: "Our goal over the years has been to keep playing, keep the music fun, and try to keep getting better." If their latest album, "Devil Of A Dream," is any indication, the couple is achieving its goals.
Most of the songs were penned by the Williamses with longtime songwriting collaborator Jerome Clark. "Jerry and I started writing songs in the late '70s, and he's a great lyricist," says Robin. "We work together well and have the same interests in music - and life, too." Linda adds, "We usually come to the table with ideas, the three of us. it seems like the songs that really come out well are the ones that happen as we visit with each other."
Many of their songs are based on real-life experiences. "The Genius" is a tribute to a musician friend who died after years of battling addictions. "Green Summertime" was written while the comet Hale-Bopp was traveling across the sky. "We were sitting outside in April on a warm day thinking about our homes," says Robin. "Jerry lives in a small town in Minnesota, and we live in a small town in Virginia." The song successfully recalls wistful daydreams about the country life. "Five Rooms," the story of a house grown empty after the loss of a lover, was written with Tim O' Brien, who performs on three of the album's songs. Other guests on the album include fiddler Stuart Duncan, accordionist Rose Sinclair, and banjoist Sammy Shelor.
After years of making a living playing music with dozens of musicians at thousands of venues, Robin and Linda have lots of tales to tell. If you ask them for road stories, they'll tell you about their days of touring bars a decade ago, when they were home for only about 60 days in two years. Or they might talk about the fun they had traveling to Europe recently with longtime friends Garrison Keillor and Kate MacKenzie in the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (which finished its second album last fall). Or they might mention touring with Mary Chapin Carpenter and performing on her Grammy-winning album a few years back.
These days, the Williamses tour with Their Fine Group __ Robin on guitar, Linda on guitar and clawhammer banjo, Kevin Maul on Dobro, and Jim Watson (of Red Clay Ramblers fame) on bass. The group has played a variety of venues, including such prestigious spots as Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. But you're just as likely to catch them performing at one of the small folk venues where they've played for years __ Nashville's Station Inn, Northhampton's the Iron Horse, The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, or the Turning Point in Piermont, New York.
No matter the venue orf the night, whether you catch them on television or at a local folk club, Robin and Linda Williams are sure to deliver a powerful and memorable performance. As the couple wrote in a letter on their Web site (robinandlinda.com), "The band is hot, and we're having the time of our lives."
__ Lisa Theo