Review: Claire Lynch Band
(As if reviewing the McCourys last week wasn’t dicey enough, here is another legend that needs no approval from me…though that won’t likely stop me from giving it….)
This past Friday, Nov 4, The Claire Lynch Band came to the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa. The crowd was small in number but very supportive of the performers. Friday nights in the Fall are dedicated to high school football and this one was no different, apparently. Having said that, the audience was attentive and seemed very appreciative of the subtleties and nuances of both the lyrics and music presented.
The show opened at 7:30 with what was billed as the Flora Bama stage band. It was a writers’ round format with Chris Newbury, Mark Sherrill, Mel Knapp and John Joyner swapping tunes. They were absolutely wonderful. Plenty of humor, great guitar work and well crafted tunes were throughout their hour long set.
The Claire Lynch Band came on full speed and played a solid 60 minutes plus a single song encore (see setlist below). Lynch’s voice has been well documented over the last 30 years of recording and commentary with many adjectives such as pure, clear, dulcet, lilting, etc. Those are all correct, but each is incomplete somehow. Lynch has a way of vocally riding the fine edge between being expressive and being maudlin. It is a rare gift and it is rooted in her sincerity. She approaches the songs (whether her songs or others’) with a sincere respect for their story, lyric and music and then molds them with her own vocal ideas. She certainly has the tools and skills to take the listener any direction she chooses. Her new CD North by South was represented in the set, but by no means dominated the list. The songs came from many points of her career.
Her bandmates are equally talented within their own particular spheres. Mark Schatz is a bass player of legendary status all his own. He has played with most everyone in this corner of the music business over the past few decades. He showed why on Friday night. Solid doesn’t do justice to describe his work. His playing set the foundation and framework for Lynch’s rhythm guitar and gave much room for the upper strings to improvise freely.
Jerrod Walker and Bryan McDowell are a pair of mid 20 year olds who are capable of both introducing new musical ideas and reaching back to the first generation bluegrassers or old-time music for phrases to better communicate a song. Their bios on the band site speak to their awards and technical acumen. What they don’t say is how they translate into wonderful sidemen who equally support and take the spotlight as needed. Being a mandolin enthusiast, I paid particular attention to Walker. His phrasing and fills were fluid and seemingly effortless through the entire set.
McDowell’s playing showed a wide range of talent. Whether playing subtle background sustained notes, a wide open fiddle tune, or duetting on mandolin with Walker, he was fully capable of meeting Lynch and taking the audience where she pointed.
This tour has been called the ‘Farewell Tour’, but that’s only partially true. This is likely the last time Lynch will have an assembled band, record and tour with the group. She is adamant that she is not retiring, but shifting her activities. She still plans to write, record and do occasional shows, but not the regular tour grind. Whenever you have an opportunity to see her perform, in whatever situation, I highly recommend it- it’s good food for your soul.
The Claire Lynch Band is:
Claire Lynch- Vocals, guitar
Mark Schatz- Bass, clawhammer banjo & occasional percussion
Jerrold Walker- Mandolin, guitar & vocals
Bryan McDowell- Fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar & vocals
Train Long Gone
You’re Gonna Change or I’m Gonna Leave
Kansas City Railroad blues
I’ll Be Alright Tomorrow
One Mistake at a Time
Paul & Peter Walked
Hills of Alabam