Three-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year award, Claire Lynch has long been regarded as one of bluegrass’s finest talents. With a gorgeous, fluid voice, its bold, bluesy flair is unmistakable, and she can launch a lyric straight through the heart.
Claire Lynch was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, but at age 12 her family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, just as a resurgence of interest in bluegrass took hold in the region. It was there that she developed her love for country and bluegrass music. In 1974, she joined what was to become the Front Porch String Band (originally called Hickory Wind) with friends who were attending college at the University of Alabama. She later married bandmate Larry Lynch. She fronted the band at a time when there were few female musicians in bluegrass. The group spent the rest of the decade touring but broke up in 1981 when she and her husband decided to settle near their hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to raising her family there, Claire became a much-sought-after session vocalist, and commuted to Nashville to work as a staff writer at two of the most prestigious publishing houses on Music Row.
In the ’90s, she found herself back on the road when the Front Porch String Band briefly reformed. This return to performing ultimately launched her solo career, leading to two Grammy® nominations and her first IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award. Yet still unsure if she wanted to return to the daily grind of touring, she considered stepping away again until, she recalls, “One day I opened my catalog of songs and realized that I’d written my life.” Since that providential revelation, she has been inducted into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and garnered many more IBMA awards (including Song of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year), a Grammy® nomination for her 2016 album North by South, and the prestigious United States Artists Walker Fellowship Award.
Lynch’s style is a pleasing and hard-to-categorize mix of bluegrass, country, blues and acoustic sounds. Her exquisite harmonies have graced albums by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Ralph Stanley. Patty Loveless, the Seldom Scene, Kathy Mattea, The Whites, and many others have recorded her songs.
Today, Lynch leads a band that is among the best in bluegrass and a perfect complement to her talents. As one admirer put it, “I can’t imagine a better, happier band and Claire Lynch is possibly the warmest, most inclusive, sincere, most down to earth and engaging performer I have ever seen.” Claire’s stellar band in Richmond features guitarist, banjo player and singer Jim Hurst, winner of two IBMA Guitar Player of the Year awards; bassist Michael Gaisbacher, a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music; and prized fiddler and mandolin player, Bryan McDowell, who at age 17 took the top prize in the fiddle, mandolin, and guitar categories at the 2009 Walnut Valley Festival.