Robin & Linda Williams to perform at Kepler Theater

February 24, 1999

Robin and Linda WilliamsBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Robin Williams and Linda Hill started putting their act together more than 25 years ago. It was an open stage, a "pass- the-hat place" in Nashville, really good for the new duo to hone and tighten their act.

They also put their lives together - marrying - and have been singing, playing and writing songs together ever since. They will be at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater Saturday night at 8, along with Their Fine Group.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Neither was from Nashville, and they left the country music capital more than 20 years ago. They live in Middlebrook, a small Virginia village.


Their music is roots music, Robin Williams says. It's hard to pigeonhole, spanning folk, bluegrass and country. Because a lot of people were listening to music that didn't quite fit into existing categories, the Gavin charts, radio rankings of popular music, came up with a new one - Americana. "We really fit there," Robin Williams says.

As part of the folk tradition, they basically are self-taught, learning by trial and error. They do what they do by ear, Williams says.

Their ears are pretty good.

Robin and Linda Williams have been hailed for their songwriting as well as their vocal and instrumental talents. They write together - both lyrics and music more or less from a personal point of view, according to Williams. "The more personal it is, the more universal it is," he believes.

They sit down with their instruments - Robin on guitar, Linda on guitar or banjo - and generally start with the lyrics. The music comes pretty quickly, he says.

It's come quickly enough for 14 albums.

Robin and Linda Williams were a duo for a long time when they decided they wanted more. "It was a musical thing more than anything else," he says.

But it was a big step, wondering whether they could afford to have Their Fine Group join them. That consists of bass player Jim Watson, a founding member of The Red Clay Ramblers, who came aboard in 1989. About three years later, Dobro and Hawaiian guitar player Kevin Maul joined them. Both provide vocal harmony, and Williams says he can't imagine doing it without them.

Robin Williams has been listening to Bill Monroe, Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Bob Dylan and Steve Earle. The day of the phone interview from his home, it was Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Stones in the Road," a recording on which he and Linda sing. They toured with the award-winning singer-songwriter in 1993. Their voices also grace the recordings of others, including Iris Dement and John McCutcheon.

Almost since its beginning, the couple has performed on Garrison Keillor's public radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion."

"It's the best," Williams says. Keillor is the hardest-working person he's ever seen, he says.

Along with Keillor and Kate MacKenzie, they are the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, recording a CD and taking a tour of England, Scotland and Denmark in 1994.

For professional musicians, touring is "pretty much the name of the game," Williams says. "That's basically what our lives have been." Their touring schedule is down to about 100 performances a year. They need the at-home time for personal and mental health, Williams says.

The entourage has had a couple of other members. Jake, a dachshund-scottie mix, traveled with them for 15 years. Now "Dixie," a 5-year-old Scottie, goes along. "She's a road dog," Williams says.

McCutcheon, who performed an October 1998 Mountain Green concert, says he's a fan as well as a friend. "We met before we met," he says. On their first date, he and his wife heard Robin and Linda Williams.

They recognized right away their mutual love of traditional Southern music, and at the same time, recognized that they were stretching into new territory, McCutcheon says. They also have a mutual love of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, he adds.

The McCutcheons moved to Charlottesville, Va., a dozen years ago, and the Williamses live "right over the mountain," McCutcheon says.

"I just think they're the greatest," McCutcheon says.

McCutcheon says he doesn't go to many shows, but he always goes to see Robin and Linda Williams. They are funny, friendly and truly professional, he says. "It's a great show."

Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group

  • Saturday, Feb. 27, 8 p.m.
  • Kepler Theater

    Hagerstown Community College

    Robinwood Drive


  • Tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for children younger than 18.
  • Sponsored by Mountain Green Concerts.
  • For tickets, call 301-790-2800, ext. 309.
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