Robin & Linda Williams
“…The Williamses are able to sum up a life in a few details with moving completeness.”- The Washington Post
“…lush Appalachian harmonies. …..[the Williamses were] mainstays on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion and have influenced subsequent generations of roots musicians….” CMT Edge
For more than four decades now, Robin & Linda Williams have performed the music that they love, a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism.
Representation: Exclusive – North America
Touring Formats: Duo
“…Among contemporary country performers,, Robin and Linda Williams shine like a diamond amid rhinestones …” David W. Johnson, The Boston Globe
The years 2017 finds Robin and Linda Williams having come full circle, from starting out playing as a duo, continuing with a twenty-five year career as bandleaders and finally back to working as a duo again.
It was music that brought them together. Linda, a Michigan school teacher, and Robin, a full time musician and a native of the Carolinas, met by chance at an open stage while visiting their parents in South Carolina. Their personal relationship blossomed immediately and within two years they discovered additional magic when they combined their voices in harmony and began their musical career during which they have logged several millions of miles in the continental US, and have toured Europe a number of times.
Their recording career started in Minneapolis, MN where Robin had made many friends and connections as a solo artist and they recorded their first three records for a local company there, establishing a recording template they have used their whole career: original tunes, songs by contemporary artists and time honored numbers from the Appalachian and blues traditions. It was at this time they made their first appearance on a little radio show just getting off the ground, conceived and hosted by Garrison Keillor, called “A Prairie Home Companion,” starting a rich relationship with that icon of American broadcasting that has continued for four decades.
” … Vocally and instrumentally, the Williamses combine impeccable musical discipline with a bare simplicity and an utter lack of pretension.”__ Stephen Holden, The New York Times
From the very beginning they have spent their career crisscrossing the nation, establishing themselves as second-to-none live performers. They’ve played theaters, college coffeehouses, Carnegie Hall, hundreds of folk, bluegrass and country music clubs and festivals, the Grand Old Opry, Radio City Music Hall, Austin City Limits, community concerts, the Ryman Auditorium and Mountain Stage, their stirring concerts earning them a huge and loyal body of Folk and Country fans who love their honest and heartfelt music.
As live performers they are second to none. Their stirring concerts have earned them a huge body of fans over the years. But as gifted songwriters Robin and Linda have earned an even rarer honor, the devotion and deep respect of their musical peers. The list of artists who have covered their original songs include some of the greats of country music, names like Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV, Tim & Mollie O’Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea and The Seldom Scene.
“…The Williamses are able to sum up a life in a few details with moving completeness.”__
They established fruitful relationships with five recording companies and have recorded twenty-three CDs to consistently positive reviews and audience acceptance. Their gospel CD, “Good News,” on Sugar Hill Records garnered two nominations for Gospel Album of the Year in 1995. They followed with “Sugar For Sugar” and “Company Of Strangers” both of which spent over fifteen weeks on the Americana Charts. 2002’s “Visions Of Love, “ produced by Garrison Keillor, received several rave reviews from national publications including a three star review in USA Today.
In 2004 they returned to a Twin Cities record company and signed with Red House Records. As of 2017 they have released seven CDs, “Deeper Waters” (“nothing short of a masterpiece – All Music Guide), “The First Christmas Gift “ (a breath of fresh air in an overcrowded, cliché-ridden field. . . ‘Shotgun Shells On A Christmas Tree’ will probably become a bluegrass standard.” – Washington Post), “Radio Songs” (“It doesn’t get any better than these two entwining their pure voices on a glowing, burnished Carter Family jewel.” – Music Row Magazine). “Buena Vista” (“Music and meaning are seamless, genuine, and first-rate, as we have come to expect from this gifted team.” – Dirty Linen), “Stonewall Country” (Robin and Linda handle all the lead vocals, and portray all of the different characters and moods, proving themselves to be wonderfully flexible singers – Oliver di Place), “These Old Dark Hills” (At a time when country music has misplaced its soul, hearing Robin and Linda Williams harmonize is like happening upon an artesian well as you’re about to die from thirst.” – Raleigh News and Observer) and “Back 40” (“. . the 14-tracks raced past me before I knew it, the stamp of a great record if there ever was one.” – FlyinShoes Review).
“…Robin and Linda Williams create music that is both comfortable and thoughtful – a rare combination that explains why and how the Williamses are able to keep on an even keel while musical trends come and go. They don’t play at being country – they are country.” __ No Depression magazine.
Other career highlights include:
A. “A Prairie Home Companion” – Robin and Linda had a 41 year relationship with this popular radio show, broadcast weekly over Public Radio, playing as many as 20 shows a year at one point. They performed with many iconic artists and, subsequent to Garrison Keillor’s retirement as the show’s host in 2016, continue to do shows with him in theaters across the country.
B “Stonewall Country” – A musical developed and written by Robin and Linda and Don Baker, “Stonewall Country” attracted many thousands of fans and ran for 25 years at the Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, VA. In 2015 a new production of “Stonewall” was commissioned and, thanks to grants from the National Endowment of Arts and the Southwest Virginia Heritage Foundation, enjoyed a successful run at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, the State Theatre of Virginia. Robin and Linda performed in the production and continue to offer special shows with stories and songs from “Stonewall Country.”
C. “The Hopeful Gospel Quartet” – This wonderful sideline ensemble included, along with Robin and Linda, Garrison Keillor and Kate MacKenzie. “The Hopefuls” performed for over ten years on the radio, toured the USA, the British Isles and Europe and released two CDs.
D. “A Prairie Home Companion” (the movie) – Director Robert Altman’s last movie, released in 2006, had Robin and Linda playing themselves and included them singing their song “Old Plank Road.” Robin and Linda performed in the movie with many Hollywood legends including Meryl Streep, Lindsey Lohan, Woody Harrelson, Lily Tomlin and Kevin Cline. It was awarded four out of four stars by Roger Ebert who added it to his “Great Movies” list.”
E. “Fortune-Williams Music Festival” – Each September for nine years Robin and Linda teamed up with Country Music Hall of Famer, Jimmy Fortune, and hosted some of the nation’s most renown and award-winning musicians for three days of music in Staunton, VA, drawing thousands of people each year from every state in the union.
F. “Their Fine Group” – After touring and recording as a duo for their first 15 years, Robin and Linda expanded their already big sound and formed “Their Fine Group.” They toured and recorded with TFG for over 20 years. Members included Jim Watson, Jimmy Gaudreau, Kevin Maul and Chris Brashear.
Having come full circle and returning to performing as a duo, Robin and Linda continue to tour constantly. When not on the road they come back to their old frame house built around a log cabin in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley where they have lived for over forty years.
Robin & Linda Williams Reach a 40th Milestone
In 1971, a young schoolteacher named Linda Hill was visiting her parents in Myrtle Beach, S.C., when she met a musician named Robin Williams. She was a singer and played guitar. He was a regular on the coffeehouse circuit. The two hit it off immediately. Two years later, they were married and touring the country in a VW Bug.
They’ve been on the road ever since. The couple tour and play constantly, sharpening their chops and blending their voices together in lush Appalachian harmonies. They’ve become mainstays on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion and have influenced subsequent generations of roots musicians.
To commemorate 40 years of musical and romantic collaboration, the couple are releasing Back 40, a collection that surveys their vast catalog of more than 20 studio albums and innumerable live shows. In addition to one new tune and a handful of covers, the duo revisit material from throughout their career, some dating back to their very first years together.
Preparing to go back out on “the never-ending tour,” as Robin calls it, the couple spoke to CMT Edge from their home in rural Virginia.
|Stephen Deusner, CMT Edge|
Robin and Linda Williams have lived in the Shenandoah Valley near Staunton, VA for going on 40 years, and their musical approach of spare, honest folk puts them squarely in the state’s legacy, which of course includes the Carter Family, as well as Dock Boggs and the Stanley Brothers. The Williams’ song “These Old Dark Hills” from their new album of the same title spoke directly to the ancient landscape they inhabit and love. Then Linda sang a lovely lead on the early and authentic version of “Wildwood Flower” entitled “I’ll Twine Mid The Ringlets.” Was there ever a sweeter melody? Then came I think their hit of the night, the joyful and swift “Maybelle’s Guitar and Monroe’s Mandolin” celebrating the amazing juxtaposition of those two iconic instruments at the Country Music Hall of Fame. If you’ve never seen the exhibit, you must. And if you’ve never heard Robin and Linda in person, well that too. Their energy is easy but potent. They are sticklers for perfect intonation (pay heed youngsters) and they eschew ornamentation. They are one of the template bands for and exemplary bands of Americana, and this was I hope the first of many visits to Roots by this remarkable duo. Kudos too to their Fine Group, with Chris Brashear on mandolin and fiddle and the veteran Jim Watson on bass and vocals. This was what mastery sounds like.
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