Long recognized and praised as a creative force in acoustic music, Claire Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. She was the 2013 Female Vocalist of the Year for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and a 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship. Her career has been decorated with many other accolades including two GRAMMY nominations and three International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist awards in 2010 and 1997. Recently, at the 2014 IBMA Awards, she received two trophies: "Song of the Year" for Dear Sister, a co-write with Louisa Branscomb and title cut of her latest Compass Records release; and "Recorded Event of the Year" for a guest vocal appearance with Special Consensus on Country Boy; A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver (Wild Montana Skies).
Dolly Parton credits Claire with "one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today." Claire's harmonies have graced the recordings of many stellar musicians. Equally gifted as a songwriter, her songs have been recorded by The Seldom Scene, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Cherryholmes, The Whites and others.
Blazing her own trail in the mid 70's when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the 80’s and 90’s into “one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands on the circuit.” She formed her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005 and has since consistently been a top pick of prestigious publications, critics and audiences across the U.S. and beyond.
Claire grew up in Kingston, N.Y. until the age of 12, when the family moved to Huntsville, Alabama. There she began her education in country music and got caught up in the bluegrass revival of the 1970's, joining a band called Hickory Wind. Later, the band changed its name to the Front Porch String Band with Claire’s vocals as its centerpiece.
In 1981, after their first nationally-released recording, the group retired from the road, and Claire pursued dual careers in addition to raising a family. As a songwriter, her tunes have been recorded by such luminaries as Patty Loveless, The Seldom Scene, Cherryholmes, Kathy Mattea, The Whites and Stephanie Davis. At the same time, she became a much sought-after session vocalist.
In 1991, the Front Porch String Band was resurrected with the album Lines and Traces, a move that ultimately led to the launching of Claire’s solo career in earnest. Friends for a Lifetime was released in 1993 followed by Moonlighter in 1995 (Claire’s first GRAMMY nomination) and Silver and Gold in 1997 (also nominated for GRAMMY glory). She was named the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997 and enjoyed many chart successes. The band wrapped up the 20th century with the album Love Light in 2000. At that time Claire took what she thought would be a full-fledged break from music, stepping away from the grind of daily touring. She wasn't sure when–or if–she would return. “I hadn’t planned to come back. Then one day I opened my catalog of songs and realized that I'd written my life,” she said.
Little by little, the lure of music worked its way back. She sang harmony on The Grass is Blue and Little Sparrow which led to promotional touring as backup vocalist for Dolly Parton. She graced albums by other artists with her background vocals including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Pam Tillis, Alison Brown, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and Ralph Stanley. Today, the impressive list of other guest appearances continues including spots on albums by Donna the Buffalo, Sara Watkins, the Gibson Brothers, Jonathan Edwards and Jesse Winchester.
In 2005, Lynch struck out on her own, forming the Claire Lynch Band and releasing the aptly named New Day CD. It was a hit on the bluegrass charts and earned her IBMA nominations for “Song of the Year” and “Female Vocalist of the Year.” In 2007, Rounder Records featured a brilliant catalog of music from her previous five albums on their label and titled the anthology collection, Crowd Favorites. More IBMA nominations followed as well as an induction into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
Whatcha Gonna Do, Claire’s next release (2009), was called “a stripped-down production with sumptuous acoustic atmospheres” showcasing…the instrumental brilliance of her four-piece band.“ After a busy touring schedule in 2010, she received three IBMA nominations including “Song of the Year” and “Recorded Event of the Year,” winning the 2010 trophy for Female Vocalist of the Year.
Ms. Lynch’s USA Walker Fellowship Award ($50,000.) was one of 50 salutes given from United States Artists (USA) for 2012. The USA Fellows represent the most innovative and influential artists in their fields - including cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts, and visual arts.
In January 2013, after a long, successful stint with Rounder Records, Claire signed a recording deal with esteemed Nashville roots label Compass Records, called by Billboard Magazine, “...one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade.” With their co-founder Garry West producing, she released the ninth solo recording of her career titled Dear Sister. By Summer, the album had reached the #1 position on the Roots Music Reports Top 50 Bluegrass Chart seven times and was nominated for “Album of the Year” at the 2013 IBMA Awards.
The current Claire Lynch Band is a powerful juggernaut, a quartet that has the innate ability to perfectly interpret the beauty, subtlety, and genre-defying sophistication of Claire’s music. The Claire Lynch Band features like-minded musicians blending tradition and innovation - two-time IBMA-winning bassist-clawhammer banjo player-dancer-percussionist Mark Schatz, soulful mandolinist-guitarist Jarrod Walker, and young string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18, won an unprecedented triple win at the Winfield, Kansas National Flatpicking Championship.
Touring behind Dear Sister (2014 IBMA “Song of the Year”) has provided the band the opportunity to present fresh, timeless material, including the title track – a tear-inducing masterpiece co-written by Claire with Southerner Louisa Branscomb. It’s an intimate farewell letter shared between a brother and sister, their lives ravaged by the destruction of the Civil War and delivered with all the tenderness Lynch is known for.
The band's newest release (Sept. 2014) was a seasonal project titled Holiday! on Claire's own label Thrill Hill Records. It was recorded during the interim of her last and next Compass recordings and includes seasonal favorites, a couple originals (Claire Lynch/Steven Sheehan's Heaven's Light and Henry Hipkens' Snow Day) and even a rendition of In the Window, a traditional Chanukah song.
As one observer writes, “Listening to Claire Lynch sing is not something to be undertaken casually. Her songs and stage presence demand the listener’s rapt attention. She’s an intensely soulful singer, whose distinctive voice resonates with power and strength, yet retains an engaging innocence and crystalline purity. She’s also a songwriter of extraordinary ability who can bring listeners to their feet with her buoyant rhythms or to their knees with her sometimes almost unbearably poignant and insightful lyrics.” (Dave Higgs-WPLN Nashville, -WAMU Washington DC)
In 2014, Digital Journal.com listed Claire as “One of the 10 Best Angelic Voices of Our Time”. She shared that honor with such luminaries as Judy Collins, Alison Krauss, Sarah McLachlan, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.