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Robin and Linda Williams
Buena Vista

Review By Steven Stone
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  Buena Vista marks a new high point for Robin and Linda Williams' career and their music. After more than 30 years of recording and performing, this CD confirms the Williams' ability to still deliver fresh and exciting music. Buena Vista combines some of their most stellar original songs with indelible performances. Anyone who regularly tunes into Garrison Keiler's Prairie Home Companion has heard Robin and Linda Williams. They have been on the show almost as many times as the house band. Their last live album, 2007's Radio Songs, was a compilation of their live Prairie Home Companion performances. In contrast, Buena Vista is a studio album where the Williams are backed by some of the best acoustic musicians in the business. Produced by Tim O'Brien, who plays fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin, and low-strung guitar, Buena Vista features Jerry Douglas on dobro and Kenny Malone on drums and percussion.

Stylistically the songs on Buena Vista fit in a crevice between bluegrass, old timey, vintage country, and folk. Some, like the title track, have a timeless quality in the melody line that would sound right at home anytime during the last fifty years. But the lyrics on "Buena Vista" have more edge than you normally hear from a country tune. Instead of a drunkard's nostalgic lament from the imbiber's point of view, we get to feel the effects of his addiction on everyone around him. Other original tunes have more conventional subject matter, such as "Maybelle's Guitar and Monroe's Mandolin," which is all about Gibson's two most famous instruments. Tim O'Brien's mandolin solo on this tune always makes me smile. Traditionalists will enjoy the Williams' reworking of the old bluegrass standard "Pretty Polly," which morphs into "Pretty Polly Williams," with more back-story and detail than you'll ever hear from the standard version.

Buena Vista also spotlights the Williams' superb vocals. On "That's The Way Love Goes" their duel lead vocals twist around like wisps of smoke on a still summer night. Some songs, such as "Visions of Mother and Dad," feature Robin on lead. Others, like "Going, Going, Gone," are lead by Linda's strong alto. But regardless of who is leading the song the Williams' singing always has a relaxed quality that lets the lyrics settle lightly on your mind. They never resort to theatricality or fake fervor to deliver their message. Like all great storytellers Robin and Linda Williams let the songs unfold at their own pace. 

 

 

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