The sounds of rural America are explored through the warm vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar-driven arrangements of Virginia-based husband-and-wife duo Robin & Linda Williams. Accompanied by the appropriately named Their Fine Group, featuring Dobro ace Kevin Maul and ex-Red Clay Ramblers bassist Jim Watson, the Williams blend a mixture of bluegrass, folk, and acoustic country music. As semi-regular performers on Garrison Keillor's nationally broadcast radio show A Prairie Home Companion, the duo and their band developed a solid international following. In addition to being featured on the duo's 12 albums, the Williams' songs have been covered by many artists including Tom T. Hall, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris, George Hamilton IV, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, the Seldom Scene, Boiled in Lead, and Holly Near.
Although they launched their musical collaboration in Nashville, the Williams first met in Myrtle Beach at the home of Linda's parents in 1971. Robin grew up in North and South Carolina and had already begun performing as a soloist, while Linda attended high school and college in Michigan and had dabbled in guitar and banjo. Performing at open mics and songwriters' workshops in Nashville in 1972 and 1973, Robin & Linda Williams developed their musical talents. Their first break came in 1975 when they phoned Keillor at the suggestion of multi-instrumentalist and fellow bandmember Peter Ostroushko. For the next five years, the duo appeared on Keillor's radio show whenever they were in Minneapolis. They continued to appear on the show up to 12 times a year after A Prairie Home Companion went national in 1980. The Williams also toured and recorded two albums with Keillor's group, the Hopeful Quartet.
The Williams had their greatest success during the 1990s. Their first album with Their Fine Group, Live, was recorded in Holland in 1992. In the summer of 1993 they did a 16-city tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter and later sang harmonies on Carpenter's Grammy Award-winning album Stones in the Road. Their 1996 album, Sugar for Sugar, spent 11 weeks in the Top 20 of Gavin's Americana Chart and was followed by an all-gospel recording called Good News. In January 1998, they released Devil of a Dream, which featured songs co-written with Jerome Clark; In the Company of Strangers followed two years later. In 2002 the duo released Visions of Love, followed in 2004 by their Red House debut, Deeper Waters. A new set of holiday music, First Christmas Gift, arrived in 2005, with Radio Songs, a collection of highlights from the pair's long tenure with Prairie Home Companion, dropping in 2007. ~ Craig Harris