Williams’ ‘part of a continuum’ of American roots
BY GARY CHUN / email@example.com
For Hawaii fans of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” here’s a chance to experience one of the long-running radio show’s favorite guests, folk musician couple Robin and Linda Williams.
The Williamses will finally accomplish playing all 50 U.S. states with an interisland tour that starts Wednesday in Honolulu in TheVenue’s intimate surroundings.
ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS
Where: TheVenue, 1146 Bethel St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Cost: $30, $45
Info: 896-4845 or lazarbearproductions.com
Also: Thursday at Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center; March 29 at McCoy Studio Theater, Maui Arts & Cultural Center; and March 30 at Honokaa People’s Theatre on Hawaii island
It’s the perfect space for the couple, who accompany themselves on banjo and acoustic guitar. They draw from a strong repertoire of American roots music that they’ve written and gathered over their 40-year-and-counting career.
Their latest album, “These Old Dark Hills,” takes its title from the Allegheny Mountains, which are part of the expansive landscape near the couple’s refurbished farmhouse in Middlebrook, Va. “It’s a place that definitely influences what we play,” said Robin Williams by phone Tuesday from the Virginia home. “All of the songs on the album come from a personal point-of-view.”
Recorded in Nashville early last year, the album is a solid collection of songs, highlighted by the traditional country gospel of “Crossing the Bar” (which includes Keillor on harmony vocals); a wonderful, mature love song in “Forever”; and a couple of retailored but spot-on covers: Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter’s “Storms Never Last,” and “My Lucky Day” by one Bruce Springsteen.
“That song was originally a rocker,” Williams said of the latter. “The great thing is that Linda was able to hear the song for what it is and put her own voice on it. That’s one of her strong points as a musician and what makes me proud to stand next to her on stage.
“We play the music that we love, American roots music. It’s the songs from the 20th century that we go back to listen to and what moves us. They’re like old friends. But we never forget that Linda and I are part of a continuum, a tradition of music, and something we feel we’re adding to.”
Their semi-regular appearances on “A Prairie Home Companion” dating back to 1980 have certainly helped solidify the Williamses’ reputation.
“It’s been a great ride and Garrison is so easy to be around. Emmylou Harris recently called him a national treasure, and we certainly agree with that.”
The couple met in a South Carolina bar during an open-mic night in 1971.
“What attracted me to Linda was not only her singing, but her playing and knowledge of the music. Singer-songwriters were becoming popular around that time, and we both shared an affinity for folk singers like Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Peter, Paul and Mary.”
And like any good folk musicians worth their salt, Williams said that the secret to the longevity of their shared career is the ability “to do good live shows.”
“We take the work as it comes, and we try to balance the amount of time spent at home to our need to be on the road — to be at home gives you roots in your life while the need to perform keeps us sharp as musicians.
“We’ve had this old farmhouse, surrounded by 8 acres, since 1976, and a lot of time and money, blood, sweat and tears, have been put into it. If there’s at least five to six days between gigs, it helps us to keep our life orderly here. This is a great place with a good community.”