Music review: Dear Sister

July 27, 2013 

Claire Lynch's "Dear Sister."

  • Bluegrass Claire Lynch Dear Sister

Soulful delivery, insightful songs

It’s a testament to her creativity that Claire Lynch was among a handful of artists honored last year with a U.S. Artists Award. The award is given to “encourage cultural innovators who continually push boundaries and provide fresh interpretations of our world.”

Claire Lynch is both innovative and insightful. She’s thoughtful in her choice of songs, reflective in her songwriting, soulful in her singing and collaborative with her band. This rare trio of qualities comes together on “Dear Sister,” Lynch’s debut CD on Nashville’s Compass Records label.

The title track, written by Lynch and Louisa Branscomb, is the centerpiece of this inspired 10-track collection. Based on letters written by a Confederate soldier to his sister (a Branscomb relative), this song-of-the-year candidate is a lovely narrative of longing for home by one who knows he may not return.

Bluegrass music’s top female vocalist for 2010, Lynch steps beyond labels to embrace a variety of moods, tempos and styles. In “How Many Moons,” she anticipates reciprocated love while serving notice that it may be time to move on: “I ain’t one for hangin’ ’round/ Unless I’m waitin’ for a train/ My mama taught me just enough/ To get out of the rain.”

With “Once the Teardrops Start to Fall,” Lynch swings away tears from memories that linger after the fire is gone. Optimism informs “Need Someone,” as she muses, “Maybe this notion of happiness is way beyond belief/ But lately I’m open to possibilities.” She professes her faith with the gospel sentiments of “Patch of Blue.”

Lynch lightens the mood with giddy Bobby Osborne-Pete Gobel bluegrass, “I’ll Be Alright Tomorrow.”

She is supported by her exceptional trio, featuring award-winning bassist/banjoist Mark Schatz and North Carolina natives Matt Wingate and Bryan McDowell, while Former Tar Heel songwriter Pierce Pettis contributes “That Kind of Love.”

From beginning to end, “Dear Sister” pushes boundaries and offers fresh interpretations of familiar situations and moods – a brilliant album from one of our most innovative and thoughtful artists.

Correspondent Jack Bernhardt

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