Reviews of CDs by Robin and Linda Williams, Primus and Earwig blues 

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Robin and Linda Williams, "In the Company of Strangers," (Sugar Hill) — Some may find Robin and Linda Williams' front-porch family-band style too low-key to be appealing. But to others, the duo's blend of folk, country, bluegrass and mountain music will be a godsend. Friends of the Grand Ole Opry and of the coffeehouse scene for more than two decades, the couple has built a following by making easygoing, good-time music. Their latest release, "In the Company of Strangers," conveys this style with conviction as guitars, dobro, fiddle and mandolin weave a warm blanket of sounds that are comforting yet musically powerful and tasteful throughout. Bringing friends such as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Tim O'Brien into the fold, Robin and Linda play with a gentleness that belies their enduring place in modern roots music. Along the way, they capture a spirit of America that's too often lost in the modern mix.

Ames Arnold

Primus, "Antipop" (Interscope) — Maybe there is a difference between Limp Bizkit and Primus. But who cares enough to find out?

Primus created a twisted batch of punk/funk/metal the past dozen years that was a decent, if goofy, antidote to the lame-brained pap on the radio. Since then, their bowel-rumbling, low-end skronk has been adopted by a slew of lesser talents — bands which happen to be the new pap. And, thanks to the involvement of said papmeisters, so is "Antipop."

Exhibit A: Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morelo produces several tracks.

Exhibit B: Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst produces another.

Exhibit C: So does "South Park's" Matt Stone.

Quoth my girlfriend: "They used to make good records! What happened?"

It's hard to pan these guys. Mike Watt, who revitalized the bass player-led power-trio template that Primus follows, is a huge fan. So is Tom Waites, who produced and sang backup on the CD's best song, "Coattails of a Dead Man."

But Les Claypool's whacked-out bass stylings don't cut it in 2000. Not after Limp Bizkit and its ilk ruined it for the rest of us.

Chris Grier, The Virginian-Pilot

"Earwig Music 20th Anniversary Collection," (Earwig) —This recently released two-CD set of blues runs the gamut of Earwig's 20 years on the scene. Though the label doesn't boast the biggest names or slickest players in blues, there's plenty here to keep fans happy. The songs were recorded primarily between 1974 (before the label was founded) and 1998 in studios and clubs and at festivals across the country, representing, for the most part, a raw side of acoustic and electric styles.

The Jelly Roll Kings featuring "Big" Jack Johnson, Sam Carr and the late Frank Frost kick things off with some down-home Delta stylings. Floyd Jones — backed by the wonderful piano of Sunnyland Slim — follows. Longtimers Louis Myers and Jimmy Dawkins show off their estimable musical chops, and "Honeyboy" Edwards appears on a remastered tune from a 1942 Alan Lomax field recording. Disc two highlights include Lovie Lee's slow Chicago blues and the rough vocals of Lil' Ed Williams and Johnny Yard Dog Jones. Stretched over the span of 31 cuts, there are some clinkers in the batch, but, overall, this compilation is a worthy collection that stands as a sturdy witness to Earwig's importance to the preservation of the blues.

Ames Arnold

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