Robin Flower and Libby McLaren have been breaking ground with their novel fusion of Irish, Cajun, bluegrass, and Western swing, which is called progressive bluegrass. In their songs, they yearn for connection with kindred spirits in diverse forms: she-wolves, faraway women, grandmothers, conscientious interveners in cycles of abuse, courageous interveners in larger political dramas, and romantic lovers.
Flower's career began with auspicious laudatory reviews from The Village Voice, Frets, and Billboard. Before Flower, McLaren had applied her rich keyboards, clear voice, and ear for instrumental interplay to recording, arrangement, and accompaniment for peers as the Roches, Ronnie Gilbert, and Holly Near. Teaming with flatpicker Nancy Vogl, Flower released her first album, More Than Friends (Spaniel, 1979). In 1982 came Green Sneakers (Flying Fish), then First Dibs (Flying Fish, 1984, awarded Best String Band Jazz by NAIRD) and Babies With Glasses (Flying Fish, 1987, awarded Best Women's Music Album by NAIRD).
In the the late '80s, Flower teamed with equally committed and competent musician Libby McLaren, whose pop view softened Flower's sophisticated, technical approach. Flower and McLaren found that they were both very focused, intent upon hard practice and unquestioning about the need to collectively arrange and assign instrumental and vocal parts. They were so focused and intent that they split from Nancy Vogl, with whom they had initially believed they would play as a trio. Several talented Bay Area women musicians have accompanied them, including: fiddler-vocalist Crystal Reeves, harpist Michelle Sell, and guitarist-singer Teresa Chandler.
For the first few years, at the end of the '80s, Flower and McLaren played folk (though they were often labeled too progressive or too electric for folk purists), general mainstream, and women's music for diverse audiences.