Silver And Gold

Claire Lynch and the Front Porch String Band
Rounder Records

Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine January 1993

If Wishes Were Horses/Hey Lonesome/ Silver And Gold/Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring/ Sweetheart, Darlin' Of Mine/I'm Goin' Up/Death Angel/Safe Haven/ Hitchcock Railway/ Out Among The Stars/Wednesday's Child/Fair Shake.

If Claire Lynch has ever had a doubt that she would succeed in the music business, it has been put to rest with this album. She sings bluegrass, blues, swing and country with style. Her heartfelt, honey-sweet vocals should put her in line for another Grammy nomination, if not a win. The Alabama native, who's sung backup for mentor John Starling, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, and others, puts her vocal talents vividly on display on this release.

The drums (Pat McInerney) on this CD, which Lynch co-produced with Rich Adler, may put off traditionalists, but I was unfazed by them because they are used so tastefully and sparingly in only half of the tracks. The album is filled with beautiful songs that are evocative and moving, including four originals.

On the heels of her 1996 Grammy-nominated album "Moonlighter" (Rounder), Lynch has not let the quality slip. The music is impeccable. Instruments are crisp, played with fire, agility, and tastefulness. Lynch's lead singing is penetrating. Her voice is filled with nuance and willowy inflections.

Joining Lynch is the Front Porch String Band, her group since the early '70s. It is her first recording with the band, having used studio musicians on previous releases. The band rises to the occasion, turning in topnotch performances. Lynch's husband, Larry (mandolin), soars in the intro of "If Wishes Were Horses." Also playing is Missy Raines, a former member of Eddie Adcock's band, and guitarist Jim Hurst. Michael McLain adds dynamic banjo picking. Glen Duncan chimes in with tasty licks on fiddle.

"Silver And Gold" is a lovely harmony-rich, country torch song about enduring love. Others, like the fast-paced "Wednesday's Child" combine country twang with bluegrass and blues. The two most definitive "bluegrass" songs are Jimmy Martin's "Hey Lonesome, with Hurst and McLain singing bluesy harmonies along with McLain's high end banjo rolls, and the quick lead-off track, "If Wishes Were Horses," with subtle resonator guitar touches by Rob Ickes.

And then there's Lynch's voice, sweet and pure, passionate and melodic, with an innocent, penetrating, country lilt. She is commanding in the bluegrass-blues of "I'm Going Up." Her voice is haunting in a trio with John Starling and Hurst in her tender original "Death Angel." In "Safe Haven" she sings over Hurst's Travis-style guitar picking. Lynch also does a wonderful job with her cover of the criminal's tale "Out Among The Stars," her voice affecting and rich.

The production on this album is clean and easy to listen to. Instruments don't overpower one another. Breaks are expressive, melodic and unblustery. Most of all, Lynch's voice is always at the forefront, making this album a true gem and her best, most enjoyable and inventive yet. (Rounder Records, One Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140)

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: