The best of bluegrass

Reigning 'Vocalist of the Year' Claire Lynch touches down at Randy Wood's

Claire Lynch is a musician’s musician. New York–born and Alabama–bred, Lynch has been making beautiful bluegrass music since her late teens.

Her first outfit, Hickory Wind, morphed into the Front Porch String Band, and Lynch spent decades touring the world with her bandmates and husband–slash–mandolinist Larry Lynch.

In 2004, the songstress struck out on her own to form The Claire Lynch Band (now featuring Jason Thomas on fiddle and mandolin, Mark Schatz on bass and Matt Wingate on guitar).

After an album deal with Rounder Records, some International Bluegrass Music Association wins and a few Grammy nods, Lynch is looking to bring her Americana–inflected bluegrass to the masses.

After all, she has over a dozen records under her belt, and Dolly Parton called her “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.”

Lynch and company perform Saturday, Dec. 4 at Randy Wood Guitars in Bloomingale.

We caught up with Lynch to chat about songwriting, winning a Grammy and the band’s chemistry. Here’s a little bit from that conversation:

You’ve written songs for everyone from Patty Loveless to Piece Pettis to Cherryholmes. Who would you most like to write for and why?

Claire Lynch: Wow. That question could probably be given a lot more thought than the thought I’m going to put into answering it today, but I’d say Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits, because I admire his artistry, his production and his songwriting.

You just had your second win for “Female Vocalist of the Year” at the IBMA Awards even though you’ve been nominated nearly every year. How surprising was the win?

Claire Lynch: The first (win) was 13 years ago, so it’s been a really long span in between. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I didn’t win again, since I was kind of used to not winning being the norm. But actually, I had so many people tell me, “Claire, this is your year.” I think that the climate was just right. I’d done really well on the bluegrass charts and I’ve gotten a lot of great attention and accolades, so I really thought I had a shot at it this year more so than previous years. I can’t totally say that I was surprised, but I was absolutely blown away.

You’ve been nominated for a Grammy Award twice, but haven’t won. How important is a win to you?

Claire Lynch: Winning a Grammy would open doors for me — career wise and with the media. Even when I got the nominations, the “G” word opened doors for me in places like publications and radio shows where it wouldn’t have otherwise. I would love having a Grammy — another nomination and an award would be the ultimate. The Grammy listening audience is different than the IBMA. They vote differently because they have a much wider taste and they view bluegrass not like real bluegrassers do. So you’re just talking about much wider listeners and it’s a bigger deal than IBMA.

Not to dis IBMA because I love them and they’ve been very very good to me.

Critics say you have the best backing lineup of your career. Tell me about the chemistry between you and your band.

Claire Lynch: It feels better than anything I’ve ever done as far as band lineups. There is chemistry. We spend time together on the road. We want to have dinner together, we want to have a drink after the show, we want to go to picking sessions together and I think that is what is clinching it for us as far as chemistry is concerned on the stage. We like each other! We respect each other and we’re all amply able to cut the mustard musically.

On this tour, will you be performing a lot off of your latest album, Whatcha Gonna Do, or is it a hodgepodge of material?

Claire Lynch: It’s a hodgepodge, because I get a lot of requests from my 30 years of repertoire. But we try and emphasize the new record. What’s happening now is we’re beginning to work on new songs for the next recording, so you may hear something you’ve never heard before.

Claire Lynch Band

Where: Randy Wood Guitars, 1304 E. Highway 80, Bloomingdale

When: At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4

Tickets: $30

Online: randywoodguitars.comm