october 2009

Claire Lynch

Sometimes good music is its own calling card, and the honest of its presentation gives it a larger dimension. So it is with Claire Lynch's beautiful Whatcha Gonna Do. Ms. Lynch doesn't seem to have any particular conceptual conceit in mind, but in her emotional performances—the impeccable phrasing, the reed, emotionally charaged voice—and not least of all in some fine and subtle instrumental support, this album has the feel of something that's going to be a welcome guest any time of the day, for as long as one can imagine—timeless, in a word, classic, in another. In the gentle, swaying rhythm of Bill Monroe's aching reminiscence of the Sunshine State and a love therein, "My Florida Sunshine," Lynch handles the heart tugging lyric with straight ahead conviction, not emotionally overwrought but matter of fact in her vow to go back to seek out her paramour, as Jason Thomas's sweet fiddling and sturdy mandolin chops provide an aural backdrop complementing the singer's determination and sorrow both. The omnipresent terror of the coal miner's life finds its voice of hope and fatalism in the vulnerable tremor in Lynch's hushed tones as she methodically immerses herself in the drama of "A Canary's Song," a small gem of the genre written by Garth Brooks and Buddy Mondlock, and blessed instrumentally by a rich, swirling arrangement spotlighting fiddle, clawhammer banjo and a tenderly picked acoustic guitar. From the pen of Jesse Winchester comes a signature philosophical discourse on human nature by way of "That's What Makes You Strong," which contains this priceless bit of Winchester wisdom: "To trust somebody is to be disappointed/it's never what you wanted/and it happens every time/ but if you're the trusting kind/this don't even cross your mind/and oh, it's a funny thing/but that's what makes you strong." And to make that clever lyrical turnaround even more effective, Lynch has Jesse himself caress it just so on the track as she edges in with a lovely harmony vocal. Yet there are plenty of good vibes here, too, right from the git-go, in fact, when Lynch seems positively beside herself in the energetic "Great Day In the Morning," a song celebrating the dawning of each new sunrise in which the singer's exuberance is further energized by Thomas's feisty fiddle and an uplifting male chorus shadowing her in the closing chorus. She can put a hurt on you, and beautifully so, as she does in the heart-wrenching "The Mockingbird's Song," an ominous reflection on infidelity replete with its fair share of cutting commentary—"when you say forever/what you really mean is never"—and evocative backdrop courtesy Thomas's keening fiddle and mandolin, and Jack Hurst's forcefully fingerpicked guitar. Not lingering over the pain, she could not sound more transported by love than in "Face to Face," a bopping little ditty she co-wrote with Donna Ulisse that has both the fresh-faced charm and old-timey good vibe of a Stacey Earle-Mark Stuart workout—Lynch even phrases like Ms. Earle at points. Wonders never cease when Claire Lynch sings, and the joy for the listener is in sitting back and luxuriating in the humanity and heart awash in this stirring music. —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024