Claire Lynch doesn't see
herself as a bluegrass blue blood.
She grew up listening to Joni
Mitchell and the
COLOR="#003163">Grateful Dead, in between
harmonizing with her sisters around the family piano, to her
parents' favorite show tunes. But when future husband
Larry Lynch invited her
to hear the bluegrass group he'd formed at the University of
Alabama, she was hooked.
"I just loved the sound of the music the acoustic
instruments, that it was all natural, " she recalled. "If I
hadn't been able to sing, I think I'd have been a bluegrass
She could sing, though, and was invited to join the band,
which soon began touring the Southeast and beyond. But she
quickly found she'd have to establish her own identity.
"It was a man's music when I started out in the ’70s," the
two-time bluegrass Grammy nominee recalls. "I mean, big-
time. There were a few women, but they were pretty brassy
they had to be. I just couldn't do that."
Breaking The Mold
Not fitting the "good ol’ boy" mold, Lynch turned instead to
the eclectic song bag that still marks her work, driving and
intelligent acoustic music based in bluegrass but not
limited by it.
"The bluegrass audience has accepted us although I
think the real traditionalists would prefer something more
along that line," she said of her and her
COLOR="#003163">Front Porch String Band
COLOR="#003163">Front Porch String Band's wide
ranging, folk-tinged repertoire.
"We're based in bluegrass, and they know I respect it. I
think the fact that I do gospel has helped, too; that's made
them relax a little."
Coming off the bluegrass circuit, to start a family in the
early '80s, the Lynches made the acquaintance of
COLOR="#003163">John Starling, a former mainstay
of the Washington, D.C.based progressive bluegrass
group the Seldom Scene.
"He took us under his wing," Lynch said. "There was so much
growth with John, learning how to play with taste and style.
People could hear it."
People could hear the developing songwriter behind the lead
singer's style, too. Country star
COLOR="#003163">Kathy Matteacovered Lynch's
"Hills of Alabam," on her breakout Walk the Way the Wind
Blows disc, and Patty
Loveless recorded "Some Morning Soon."
"I wasn't very prolific at songwriting at that point," Lynch
said, "so that was really encouraging."
A solo gospel album on the Brentwood label followed, and
then the Grammy-nominated disc "Moonlighter," including the
hit title track (covered by
COLOR="#003163">Stephanie Davis) and the popular
Silver and Gold, Lynch's third solo project, also got
a Grammy nod and saw the musician expanding her range from a
driving contemporary bluegrass cover of "Hitchcock Railway"
(RealAudio excerpt) to the swinging "Who Knows What
Tomorrow May Bring?" and the thought-provoking ballad "Out
Among the Stars."
Moving Forward, To The Back
She was expanding her range as a harmony singer, too,
receiving calls to back up not only Mattea, Loveless and
Starling but also Dolly
Stanley and Linda
"When I met Linda Ronstadt, she was obviously familiar with
my work who knows from where? When I was standing
next to her in the studio, singing it was in a little
studio in Arizona where she lives it was sort of like
a dream. Three feet from me is Linda Ronstadt! And I'm
singing with her!"
Lynch, whose vocals can be heard on Ronstadt's Feels Like
Home album, points out that "there's a difference
between lead and harmony singing. When you're doing harmony,
you're there to serve the song, to make the song the best it
can be, not to stand out as you do on lead. It has to be a
whole different approach."
On Love Light, (Rounder), which was released Tuesday,
Lynch has written or co-written seven of the dozen songs.
"I'd have liked to have more," she said, "but I just didn't
have time to write them!"
The high-energy gospel-bluegrass "I'm Movin'" (RealAudio excerpt) is a
track from long-ago mentor Paul
Craft, while "Blue Water Holler" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Lynch,_Claire/Blue_Water_Holler.ram">RealAudio excerpt COLOR="#003163">Jesse Leary
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Lynch,_Claire/Blue_Water_Holler.ram">RealAudio excerpt), which was co-written with
COLOR="#003163">Jesse Leary, is an evocative
trip to a friend's Tennessee home.
For "Love Light" (
HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/aiclip.cgi?track=~ggg- XXXXXX/0251260_0103_00_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt
XXXXXX/0251260_0103_00_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt), the title
song, "Really, I just went into that session with the line 'I'm livin' in
your love light' and the idea that we should grass up the song,"
Pierce Pettis' enigmatic
"Missionary Ridge," Harry
Hipkins’ swing tune "Stranger Things Have
Happened" and "These Flowers," Lynch's tribute to her
father-in-law, indicate the variety that rounds out the
A Prayer Before Flying
Looking forward to a busy summer of touring on the festival
circuit including her first appearance in Japan, as
part of the Country Gold Concert 2000 Lynch, who has
a teenage son and daughter, said that her goals include:
"Getting through all these gigs and loving the music and the
road, doing a lot more writing, raising my kids without too
much guilt, and getting to the point where we can draw good
sell-out crowds in the kinds of places we're playing.
"I love to play to a full room. I feel as though my career
has developed as much as it has because God has allowed it,"
she said. "And as for what more God has in store, we'll just
wait and see."
Claire Lynch tour dates:
April 15; Fairfax, Va.; Fairfax High School
April 2829; Wilkesboro, N.C.; MerleFest
June 3; Syria, Va.; Graves Mountain Festival of Music
June 25; Tuscumbia, Ala.; Helen Keller Festival
July 8; Portage, Mich.; Celery Flats B'grass Festival
July 14; Ancramdale, N.Y.; The Grey Fox Festival (formerly
July 22; Somerset, Ky.; Master Musicians Festival
July 23; Nashville Tenn.; Opry Fest Bluegrass Jamboree
Aug. 2; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Sonoma County Fair
Aug. 12; Henderson Ky.; Bluegrass in the Park, Audobon Mills
Aug. 26; Lenoir, N.C.; Main Street Lenoir
Sept. 2; Long Creek, S.C.; Rohletter's Apple Valley
Sept. 9; Hayden, Ala.; The Acoustic Cafe
Claire & Larry Lynch tour dates:
(Also appearing are the Wild
Hares, Larry Lynch's new Celtic combo.)
Sept. 30; Berlin, Md., The Berlin Fiddler's Convention
Oct. 15; Kumamoto, Japan; Country Gold Concert 2000 (with
the Reno Bros. & Larry
Cordle and Lonesome
Dec. 2; Memphis, Tenn.; The Lucy Opry (with the Reno Bros. &
Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time)