Bluegrass musician and Alabama native Claire Lynch is the very embodiment of Southern kindness.
Speaking with MusicNerd.ca in advance of her upcoming Atlantic Canadian tour, including a Wednesday May 20 stop at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre, Lynch displays none of the ego that could go along with being a Grammy-nominated artist.
She has also earned the distinction of having sung alongside the likes of Emmylou Harris, who said she had the “voice of an angel,” while artists including The Seldom Scene, Stephanie Davis, Patty Loveless and Kathy Mattea have covered her songs.
In addition to her Grammy Award nominations, Lynch has been awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Female Vocalist Award on three different occasions, earning a United States Artists Walker Fellowship Award in the process.
Her most recent International Bluegrass Music Association Awards for Song of the Year (“Dear Sister”) and for Recorded Event of the Year (“Wild Montana Skies”), celebrate an artist still in her creative prime, almost 40 years since she debuted with the Front Porch String Band.
Lynch is modest about her numerous, impressive accomplishments, almost to a fault.
“Growing up, my whole family was musical. I learned to sing harmony with my siblings at a very early age. It’s something I would do at church, parties and family gatherings, but it was never anything formal,” Lynch says.
That would change after Lynch saw her first bluegrass band at age 19. Finding herself completely taken with the group, she soon found herself front and centre stage as the vocalist of The Front Porch String Band.
In 1981, following the release of their first nationally-available album, the band retired from the road, prompting Claire to pursue a career as a songwriter and session vocalist, while also raising a family.
The next decade, the Front Porch String Band was born again with their album Lines and Traces, while in 1993, Lynch launched her debut solo record, Friends For A Lifetime. Her next two solo releases – 1995’s Moonlighter and Silver and Gold (1997) – earned Lynch her Grammy Award nominations.
By the time that the turn of the century had arrived, Lynch took a step back from music, unsure whether or not she would ever return. Slowly but surely, however, she was drawn back in, singing on Dolly Parton’s The Grass Is Blue and Little Sparrow records. She also accompanied Parton on the tours for the releases.
It was also during this time that Lynch would be asked to lend vocals to records from Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Loveless and others. She admits that being asked to sing alongside Harris and Ronstadt was initially intimidating, if only because of the immense influence each musician had upon her own career:
“It was such an interesting experience, singing for Emmylou and Linda because they were giants, in my eyes. Emmylou was just so articulate and genteel and so very kind. She talked to me as if she had known me her whole life.
“The same could be said for Linda Ronstadt, as well. I had gone into the studio expecting to simply overdub my vocals, but Linda insisted that we sing together at the same time. To be standing just a few feet away from someone I had such respect and admiration for was such a wonderful experience,” Lynch says.
It was in 2005 that Lynch began her namesake band, releasing their debut effort New Day. They have since released a handful of efforts, including two albums last year. The first of those efforts, Dear Sister, won the International Bluegrass Music Association Award for Song of the Year, while their newest release was a seasonal project called Holiday!.
Backing Lynch at her Capitol Theatre performance will be two-time IBMA-winning multi-instrumentalist Mark Schatz, mandolinist-guitarist Jarrod Walker and guitarist Bryan McDowell.
She says that she and her band are looking forward to their upcoming tour of Atlantic Canada a corner of the world she willingly says they haven’t quite explored as much as they would like, both for personal and musical reasons.
“Admittedly, we haven’t spent a lot of time in Atlantic Canada,” Lynch says. “Having the opportunity to integrate our songs with the music from your region is something we have been looking forward to for quite some time.
“Despite the distance that separates Atlantic Canada from the Southern U.S., I feel there are a lot of similarities in our music, making for a unique Appalachian-style mix of British Isle and Euro-inspired songs. Also, whether you’re from the Southern U.S. or Atlantic Canada, a fiddle tune is going to make you want to get up and dance. No two ways about it,” Lynch says.
What: The Claire Lynch Band
When: Wednesday May 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $30 (plus service charges). Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca