Claire Lynch Biography
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. 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, mandolinist-guitarist Matt Wingate and 21-year-old string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18, won an unprecedented win at Winfield, Kansas - taking first place honors in the flatpicking guitar, mandolin and fiddle contests.
Claire’s own career is fittingly bookended by two IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards: in 2010, in recognition of her current work with the Claire Lynch Band, and in 1997, for her influential work with the Front Porch String Band, and as a solo artist.
Blazing her own trail in the mid 70's when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the 80’s and 90’s 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 consistently been a top pick of prestigious publications, critics and audiences across the nation ever since.
Claire grew up in Kingston, N.Y. until the age of 12, when the family moved to Huntsville in northern Alabama. There she began her education in country music and got caught up in the bluegrass revival of the 1970's, 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 GRAMMY glory). 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 never thought I'd 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 (Dolly has described Claire as "one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.") 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 “New Day” CD. 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 her 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.
“Whatcha Gonna Do,” Claire’s next release (2009) was called “a stripped-down production with sumptuous acoustic atmospheres” showcasing Lynch's award-winning vocals and the instrumental brilliance of her four-piece band. After a busy touring schedule in 2010, Claire 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.
At the end of 2012, Claire’s long history at the creative forefront of bluegrass and acoustic music earned her a very rare honor, The United States Artists Fellowship. Presented by the philanthropic organization of the same name, the $50,000 grant is given to only 50 of 300 candidates exclusively invited to apply. Awards are presented annually in eight categories - dance, theater, visual arts, media, literature, crafts, architecture and music. Claire was among seven musicians given the Fellowship this year. Since its founding in 2005, only two other bluegrass or country musicians have been so honored - previous winner, resonator guitarist Rob Ickes (who guests on Dear Sister) and fellow 2012 honoree, banjoist Tony Trischka.
After an 18-year collaboration with Rounder Records, Claire has signed a new record deal at esteemed roots label Compass Records, called by Billboard Magazine, “one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade.” With their co-founder Garry West producing, she released the ninth solo recording of her career titled “Dear Sister” in May 2013.