Claire Lynch: North By South

January 17, 2017

lynch2Bluegrass on Ice

Listening Post 82. Among Claire Lynch’s many talents is an uncanny ability to embody a man’s song—her angelic voice not imitating the opposite sex but simply erasing the importance of gender. She memorably personified a Civil War soldier in Kennesaw Line and on her latest album she’s a deckhand-turned-ship’s captain who spends 50 years with the love of his life, the Molly May (video 1). The song—written by J.P. and Gervais Cormier—is bittersweet, like any story of passion, and no one does bittersweet with a richer blend of radiance and nuance than Lynch. But Molly May, it turns out, is a love story within a love story: One day this bluegrass queen of Nashville got a fan letter from a man in Toronto, suggesting she fly north to perform. She did just that—and also fell in love with her pen pal and married him. In the process, she discovered what she describes as “a community of songwriters that hadn’t been on my radar.” Nine of the 10 tracks on North By South are by Canadian artists. To help import country, folk and pop songs, Lynch is aided by a who’s who of bluegrass guest musicians like Jerry Douglas on dobro, Béla Fleck on banjo and Alison Brown on guitar. The one song penned by Lynch herself, Milo, is inspired by her own story of Tennessee mockingbird meets Ontario loon—and how they work out the harmonies (video 2). There’s nothing but meat on this Grammy-nominated album, with Gordon Lightfoot’s It’s Worth Believin’ (video 3) dazzling; and Old Man Luedecke’s Kingdom Come especially sweet. Bluegrass has been enriched many times over by Lynch, and now it has its own North Star. (Compass Records)






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