Friends for a Lifetime

Claire Lynch and the Front Porch String Band
Rounder (re-release)

WVA Program 94

Claire's distinctive mountain-tinged vocals have graced recordings by Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Skip Ewing, Patty Loveless, and her own band, The Front Porch String Band. Friends For A Lifetime is her award winning solo gospel project. An unpretentious acoustic sound, artistically assembled by some of the best players in Nashville, laces the Southern gospel, bluegrass, inspirational, folk and country influences of this project. There is an irresistible honesty and broad appeal in her voice and the selections on this recording.

Four of the songs were either written or co-written by Claire ("Friend For A Lifetime," "Somewhere Above," "Go and Do the Same," and "Lead Me On.") Bill VornDick, known for his work with Bèla Fleck & The Flecktones, Alison Krauss, Marty Robbins, Maura O'Connell and Ralph Stanley, is to be saluted once more for this one.

Surely this recording will be passed along, with the family Bible and other treasures, to the next generations.

Brentwood Bluegrass:
One Maryland Farms, Suite 200,
Brentwood, TN 37027-5006

One of the most progressive vocal talents in bluegrass has reissued this 1993 treasure. Backed by a more-than-respectable lineup -- including such names as David Grier, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan and Jerry Douglas -- Claire Lynch sings about faith and family on Friends for a Lifetime.

With her flexible, muscular voice, Lynch shines on songs that have some bite to them. She is at the front of the pack on Who Do You Know?, a bouncy telling of Elijah's story with a Southern Gospel feel. At a sudden modulation, she all but brings the fire down from heaven. The song is nicely accented by Duncan's squealing fiddle work.

Similarly, Lynch is a force on God Spoke His Name and, in a more understated way, the album's closer, After the Storm.

On other cuts, Lynch allows herself to be icing on the cake. Paul and Peter Walked is built on a fat groove perfect for playing overtop of at home. (At the risk of sounding like a guitar magazine, start picking on the C pentatonic scale and be ready for the switch to D. Most of the notes will sound right, and it's pretty cool stuff for playing in front of the mirror and pretending you're Tony Rice.) Even if you're just listening, the backbeat is strong and the dobro parts are wicked. You'll swing to this one.

A strength that Lynch shows gracefully on this CD is that she trusts her material. On the hymn, He Leadeth Me, she is content to let the words carry the weight. The poignant Between the Two of Them is unadorned aside from a few dobro licks for ornamentation and a thoughtful fiddle tag by Andrea Zonn.

The best example of Lynch's quiet interpretation -- and my favorite song from the record -- is His Presence Is My Favorite Gift. Her breezy delivery makes songwriter Hershey Reeves' lyrics seem conversational. This track is among Lynch's best work, and that is saying a lot.

Bluegrass Unlimited - Jan 94

Lead Me On/Who Do You Know?/ Your Pres-ence Is My Favorite Gift/Go And Do The Same/-Paul And Peter Walked/There Is A Fountain/ God Spoke His Name/Friends For A Lifetime (Song For Kegan)/My Name Is Judas/He Leadeth Me/Somewhere Above-/Between The Two Of Them/ After The Storm.

Every now and then there comes along one special bluegrass gospel album so significant that it eclipses all others. In the early 1980s, It was Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver's magnifi-cent "Rock My Soul." More recently it was Jerry and Tammy Sullivan's "A Joyful Noise." Now it is Claire Lynch and her wondrous "Friends For A Lifetime." Here is absolutely the most exciting gospel collection of 1993 and for that matter just about any other year. Claire Lynch has long been one of the best kept vocal secrets in bluegrass. While Claire and husband Larry Lynch have several previous releases with their band, the Front Porch String Band, "Friends For A Lifetime" represents her pinnacle of creativity. The album consists of a dozen exceptional gospel treasures skillfully performed by Claire Lynch and supported by a number of great players. The production is under the experienced hands of Bil VornDick who has the remarkable ability to ex-tract the best aspects of an artist. The performances are somewhat low key but seethe with emotion and splendor. Alan O'Bryant takes momentary leave from the Nashville Bluegrass Band to contribute some piquant background vocal support on "Paul And Peter Walked." Claire Lynch has created an important assortment of gospel music destined to become an all-time classic. "Friends For A Lifetime" is a must for any true lover of inspirational music. (Brentwood Music Inc., One Maryland Farms, Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027) LM

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: