News Column

Duo's roots music is showing

December 6, 2013


Dec. 06--The duo of Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin began with an Eastern European Kathy Mattea concert, a recording session and a short straw.

"It's an interesting story," Robert Bowlin, flatpicking and fingerpicking bluegrass guitarist, said about how his work with singer-songwriter and bassist Wil Maring started in 1988.

The duo has worked together since then and will return for a third time to the area at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Royal Theater in Archer City to perform a concert for Hospice of Wichita Falls.

The acclaimed bluegrass/country duo met 10 years ago, but their story begins in 1988 when Maring was playing at a music festival in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and guitarist Bowlin was playing for Mattea.

"Wil was sitting on the front row and didn't know me. She took pictures of Mattea and tried to find us after the show, but we'd already left.

"Jump ahead to 2003," he said.

Bowlin was hired to produce and play on a record that was to be recorded in Maring's home.

"The guy she was with at the time had a home studio and I went and I did that. I didn't see her or know her. We finished the project, and it did quite well in terms of charting.

"The next year I was called back to do the same thing. We went back to the studio and didn't see her. We got through one day of the project but there weren't enough hotel rooms, and one person was going to have to stay at the house. We drew straws to see and I got the short straw."

Later that evening, she returned home, and they got to taking about Mattea, and she recalled the concert in Prague.

"Earlier that day, I had noticed in the bathroom a magazine called Flat Picking Guitar on top of a stack of magazines and on the front of the issue was my picture. I thought, 'What in the world?' "

But, Maring had not recognized him from that magazine picture. It was only after they got out her pictures from the Prague show that she made the connection. She gave him a CD, which he liked a lot.

The two didn't talk until five or six years ago, he said, after both had gone through divorces.

"I was out on the road with the Osmond Brothers, and I called and asked her how things were going with her, and she said she had a gig for a convention. I said I wasn't doing anything and I liked the CD she'd given me. I told her we could play a festival in Nashville."

They first played as a duo at an open mic. "I said, 'Lets play with two guitars,' and she said she was used to playing with a band. We did it and it went over well. From then on, we had the duo. It's worked out and we've played all over the country."

Most of their shows are played together, with him primarily playing guitar and her on a 3/4 standup bass. They both play on each other's songs and do some older cover material.

"Sometimes I will pick up the fiddle, and she will play guitar and I'll pick up guitar and she'll play bass, or we'll play two guitars.

"I usually voice my guitar above hers, so there is a piano effect. And, I do that when she plays bass, as well. It makes for a bigger, wider overall sound. I took piano lessons for 20 years, so that may be the reason why," he said with a laugh.

Since their show earlier this year in Wichita Falls, Bowlin said they will introduce some new material in Archer City.

"We've become more comfortable on stage -- not by design. But we communicate with the audience in a real off-the-cuff way. You never know what's going to be said. People have said we have a George Burns/Gracie Allen thing onstage.

"I am sort of the dry, straight man, and she's the real chatty 'let's get things going.' Somehow it gets the audience going."

The duo will perform music from their albums and some classic covers.

"The covers we do are a lot of times things mostly folks over 45 or 50 would have heard. They're old Ray Charles cuts or cuts from the late swing era and early jazz era -- Sara Vaughan and Billie Holiday. And I do one called 'Shine' that's been revived many, many times.

"We just provide variety within our own limitations," he said.

"Wil has a wonderful songwriting talent, and her songs have been covered by a lot of artists. She sings from an area of experience. I really respect all of her talent.

"I try to complement her singing, and she tries to complement what I do. It makes for a variety of things to offer."


What: Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Royal Theater, 113 E. Main St., Archer City

Admission: $50 for admission, T-shirt, dinner and 6 p.m. bus ride from Hospice to Archer City. BYOB.

Ticket information: Amy Cox at 631-5923or Ashley Thomas at 687-4617


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