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. Blazing her own trail in the mid ‘70s when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the ‘80s and ‘90s 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 1970s, 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 a Grammy). 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 album New Day . 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.
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.
In January 2013, after a long, successful stint with Rounder Records, Claire signed a new recording deal with esteemed Nashville roots label Compass Records. 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 No. 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 Matt Wingate young string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18, won an unprecedented triple win at the Winfield, Kansas National Flatpicking Championship.
Opry member 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.
She is a three-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year winner and 2016 IBMA & GRAMMY nominee, as well as a 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship.
On her new album NORTH BY SOUTH, Claire pays homage to Canadian songwriters through a set of bluegrass and Americana tracks. Inspired by her recent marriage to a Canadian, Lynch began to dig into the vast catalog of songs written by Canadian songwriters. Working with Alison Brown in the producer’s chair and the longtime Claire Lynch Band members behind her, she delivers stand out versions of Ron Sexsmith’s “Cold Hearted Wind” with Jerry Douglas on Dobro, the catchy “Kingdom Come” written by Old Man Luedecke featuring Bela Fleck (banjo) and David Grier (guitar) and the gorgeous maritime ballad “Molly May” written by Cape Breton’s J.P. Cormier. Lynch also offers thoughtful reinterpretations of songs by Lynn Miles (“Black Flowers”), Dave Francey (“Empty Train”), Gordon Lightfoot (“It’s Worth Believing”) and Willie P. Bennett (“Andrew’s Waltz”) featuring Stuart Duncan (fiddle). In addition, she contributes one of her own songs: the light-hearted “Milo” to the project. These carefully chosen, elegantly rendered songs are an exquisite sampling of the rich tradition of Canadian songwriting, but Lynch remarks that “this collection only touches the tip of the iceberg”. NORTH BY SOUTH is the product of a love for the songs of Canada, now a centerpiece of Lynch’s life.
"One day I opened my catalog of songs and realized that I'd written my life."