November 2008

Robin & Linda Williams - Buena Vista
Red House RHR CD 213
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Buena Vista is probably Robin & Linda Williams’ best album to date -- hard to say definitively since they’ve performed and recorded for over three decades. Solid songwriters tending more toward the sentimental than the dark or heavy-but-meaningless, they reach new heights here in two tours de force: the title song and "I’m Invisible Man." The former empathizes with a decent person struggling with hard times he’s brought upon himself. The latter compellingly and sympathetically adopts the persona of a recent war veteran living in a cardboard box that says "This End Up."

They do a fine job on the Lefty Frizell classic "That’s the Way Love Goes," the only track not from their pen. "Pretty Polly Williams" begs a look at the credits, sounding so much like the traditional ballad by the same name sans theirs. The Williamses conscientiously seek and find interesting ways to say worthwhile things. Longtime Williams listeners will recognize their warm, engaged singing voices, their favorite country rhythms tending toward the hoppin’ but allowing some lilting, and their straightforward arrangements emphasizing guitar and bass.

Grammy winner Tim O’Brien produced the album and loaned his towering instrumental talent to every song -- banjo, fiddle, guitar, bouzouki -- and some vocals. Dobro star Jerry Douglas shines on several tunes. Bassist Dennis Crouch and percussionist Kenny Malone are sound layers of the foundation. Recording and sound are good -- the total production values boost this disc above many other good Williams efforts. But it’s more than that. None of the songs falls flat, and all of the vocal harmonies work. It’s just very much what singer-songwriter lovers love.