Bluegrass Truth – Issue 84

By The Davidson Brothers

After Claire Lynch swung by to sing some harmonies on our new album we took the opportunity to ask her few questions about her fabulous new album North by South. Three time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year has outdone herself on her fifteenth album. Claire is a super-talent. She sings in angelic tones and her music is unique. For those unfamiliar, we would suggest that if there was a bluegrass theme park somewhere in Kentucky, Claire would spend most of her time in the ‘folk bluegrass’ and ‘contemporary acoustic’ areas of the park.

Although currently based in Nashville, Claire grew up in Kingston New York, and moved to Huntsville Alabama at age twelve. She jokes that she was “raised in both sides of American culture.” Claire has had a big career in bluegrass, actively performing since the bluegrass revival of the 1970s, and recording commercially since 1981. Along the way she sang harmony on Dolly Parton’s iconic bluegrass albums ‘The Grass is Blue’ and ‘Little Sparrow,’ and Dolly credits Claire with “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.”

North by South is an album featuring a collection of Canadian songs. The concept arose after Claire fell in love and married a Canadian man. Claire researched the project for two years and ended up with forty songs on her ‘A list.’ From there, she worked on the songs with her touring band – Mark Schatz (bluegrass legend), Bryan McDowell (25) and Jarrod Walker (24). They worked up the songs that “felt good and comfortable.” The two young fellas in the band “bring a fresh approach, although they respect the experience and wisdom” of Claire and Mark.

Before heading to the studio, bluegrass super pickers Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas and David Grier made themselves available to rehearse and assist with arranging the material. Other guests on the album include Alison Brown (producer of the album), Stuart Duncan, Kenny Malone, Jeff Taylor and Matt Wingate.

The songs are lyrical, expressive tone poems, and for Claire “it’s all about the song.” Nine Canadian songwriters are showcased on this album: Ron Sexmith, J.P. Cormier, Christopher Rudolph Luedeke, Wille P. Bennett, David Francey, Cris Cuddy, Lynn Mile, Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn. In addition, Claire has written a light hearted song about her husband ‘Milo.’

There is a pleasingly satisfying range of material on the album. All of the song selections are beautiful and strong melodically. Besides Claire’s enchanting leads, you’ll enjoy some rich guitar picking, sultry twin fiddles, tasteful harmony singing, interesting arrangements, and creative musical improvisation. The album opens with the soulful ‘Cold Heated Wind,’ which sets a solid tone for the album. ‘Molly May’ and ‘Empty Train’ reveal Celtic influences, although the latter lays down a fat, bluesy groove as the bed for the song. ‘Kingdom Come’ kicks along rhythmically and ‘Andrew’s Waltz’ is a simply stunning piece of music showcasing Claire at her best. ‘Gone Again’ is a quirky and whimsical song about being on the road as a musician. ‘Black Flowers’ is as dark and dramatic as acoustic music gets, and the fretless baritone banjo is haunting. Fans of Tony Rice’s Gordon Lightfoot album will be rapt to hear Claire deliver ‘It’s Worth Believin’.’ Finally, ‘All the Diamonds in the World’ is an acoustic paradise, and if Claire’s singing on this track doesn’t affect you emotionally, you’re not human. Treat yourself and purchase North by South – it is a musical masterpiece.

The hottest bluegrass band in Melbourne right now if you haven’t already seen them are The Collingwood Casanovas. The group features Grant Arthur on banjo, Ben Harrison on mandolin, James Gilligan on fiddle, Louis King on guitar and Jono Brown on bass. They did drop a five track self-titled EP late in September 2015, but we will be watching these guys very closely in the near future. They have plenty of gigs coming up, so you should have no trouble catching them in concert.

To recap on Tamworth, Pete Denahy is the king up there as far as bluegrass is concerned. His daily bluegrass and comedy shows are well attended and as always well received. We were able to be there on the last Friday of the festival and it was going off. In the first half of his shows he gets his comedy repertoire out of the way, then the second half is his bluegrass set. He often talks his abilities as a musician down as part of his act, but let us assure you, Pete has always been up there in the eyes of other pickers, and on many instruments too. Performing with Pete in his band during the festival were Aaron MacLean on bass and Montz Matsumoto on banjo.

Kristy Cox went on to win the ‘Bluegrass Recording of the Year’ Golden Guitar at the CMAA Awards for the second time.

Bluegrass duo Jamie Dailey & Darren Vincent have been invited to become official members of the Grand Ole Opry. The pair have been nominated for numerous Grammy awards and are also three time IBMA Entertainers of the Year. Dailey and Vincent returned to the Opry this week to celebrate the kick-off of their 10th year as a duo, which began on the Opry stage in 2007. The night also marked the duo’s 100th Opry appearance. During a special half-hour set, the two were joined by a series of guests including Opry members Marty Stuart and Connie Smith as well as John Carter Cash and his wife Ana Cristina in addition to Dailey’s father JB Dailey and Vincent’s mother Carolyn Vincent. After a performance together, Marty Stuart gave the pair the surprise of their lives, inviting them to officially join the Opry. The pair were stunned, having no previous knowledge the invitation was about to be tendered. Their formal induction into the Opry will be held on 11 March. See Reviews for speil on Marty Stuart’s new album as well.