Sounds Local: Robin and Linda Williams perform Friday
Robin and Linda Williams were making music together long before “Americana” became a popular musical genre. The married couple from Virginia never really bothered to label the type of music it performed. As far as they were concerned, they were simply playing the music they loved. With Robin on guitar and Linda on claw hammer banjo and guitar, they have spent the last 40 years playing a brand of music that blends bluegrass, gospel, mountain folk and classic country.
They released their first album in 1975 and, in the years that followed, they went on to release 23 more. Soon after that first album came out, they were invited to perform on a new radio show called “A Prairie Home Companion.” Since then, they have appeared on the Garrison Keillor show many times and also appeared in the Robert Altman movie of the same name. They have toured the country countless times, performing at venues like the Grand Ole Opry and appearing on such programs as “Austin City Limits.” Known for their strong harmonies and tight musicianship, it is their outstanding and honest songwriting that has led artists like Tom T. Hall, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris to cover their songs.
Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Group will play three shows throughout the Connecticut River Valley to benefit the Connecticut River Watershed Council and the 18th annual Source to Sea Cleanup.
The first of these shows will be held at Memorial Hall, 51 Bridge St., in Shelburne Falls on Friday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. Greenfield’s own Pat and Tex LaMountain will open the show.
The other two shows will be held Saturday, April 26, in Woodstock, Vt., and Sunday, April 27, in Old Saybrook, Conn.
“We have a leaning toward that anyway,” said Robin, who spoke in a warm southern drawl during a recent phone interview. “Right now, we are sitting here reading about what happened in West Virginia last January with the water, and chemicals getting into their wells. It become comes more evident everyday how important our watersheds are.”
“Even in a pristine area where we live, people are worrying about water,” chimed in Linda via speakerphone. “The watershed people approached us about doing these benefits and we were happy to do it. It’s a good cause and we also love the area.”
This concert was originally scheduled for September, but was postponed when Robin had to undergo surgery for an injury he sustained after falling off a shed roof.
“Yeah, I proved that gravity works when I came off a building and landed hard,” said Robin with a laugh. “We had some time off, but now we are back out on the road doing what we love to do.”
Even though their touring schedule was put on hold for awhile, in October they released an album called “Back 40.” It celebrates their 40 years of making music together.
“We decided to take a look back on some of our older material from our first few records,” said Linda. “These are songs that we still felt we had a connection with.”
“These are songs that were originally recorded on vinyl and never put on CD,” added Robin. “It was really rewarding to go back and see how many songs still held up.”
“Back 40” starts out with an uplifting bluegrass song called “On and On.” It was originally released in 1993 but serves as the perfect summary of the couples’ life together. Joining their voices together, they sing:
“On and on this road goes forever/On and on we roll on together/After all that we’ve been through/This old love is good as new/It keeps driving me and you/On and On.”
Other songs reflect on their many journeys venturing through places like “Pine City” and they also look back on young love in “At Seventeen” and even explore the treatment of Native Americans on “Adam Rude.” They also included a few cover tunes and a new song called “The Old Familiar House on Christmas Day.”
“Most of these songs haven’t seen the light of day in decades,” Linda said
“This album was a pleasure to do and it has sold well,” said Robin. “Starting in 2014, we revamped our whole set list and are now concentrating on this record.”
“We have written and recorded a lot in the past couple of years and it’s been nice, fresh music for us,” said Linda.
“It has really revitalized us,” added Robin.
But old fans need not worry; Linda said the Shelburne Falls show will also include the old favorites that people want to hear.
The pair don’t tour quite as much as it used to, but the self-described “hardened road warriors” look forward to making a trek to New England, particularly western Massachusetts. They have strong ties to this area.
Former Greenfield resident musician Rose Sinclair (Girl Howdy) once was a member of their touring band and has performed on one of the Williams’ albums. Fine Band member Chris Brasher, who plays fiddle and mandolin, lives in Amherst. Another member of the band, bass player and singer Jim Watson of North Carolina, attended Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill.
“We are really looking forward to these shows,” said Robin. “We love that area. We also are looking forward to working with Pat and Tex and just glad to be finally getting up there again.”
Tickets are $15 general admission, $35 includes pre-concert reception at Mocha Maya’s and premium seats (advance purchase only). Tickets can be purchased at www.ctriver.org/news-events/concert/; by phone, 800-838-3066; at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St., or Boswell’s Books, 10 Bridge St., both in Shelburne Falls; at World Eye Bookshop, 156 Main St., Greenfield.
Becca Byram and Mark Herschler to perform at the Arts Block Friday
The last time Mark Herschler played at the Arts Block in Greenfield, he was there as an opening act for a group of musicians that included Becca Byram. Byram was so moved by Herschler’s music that she got up and started playing keyboards with him, sparking an amazing impromptu performance. Recognizing the great musical chemistry between the two, Herschler, guitarist and singer who lives in, Northampton, will team with vocalist and pianist Byram for a night of soul, funk and blues at the Arts Block, on Friday, April 25, at 8 p.m.
Herschler was a fixture in the local music scene back in the late 1990s, working as a classical guitarist, singer-songwriter, even working with cellist Gideon Freudman.
He spent the last 10 years in Europe, where he was involved with a variety of musical projects.
Byram, who is a former assistant music director at “Saturday Night Live,” is a trained jazz musician who has a long and varied resume. Her songs have been used in films like “Coyote Ugly” and have been covered by artists such as Jennifer Lopez and others. When these two get together, it should be a musical night to remember.
Advance tickets are $7 and available at the www.theartsblock.com or $10 at the door. The Arts Block is located at 289 Main St. Shows are general admission.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org