3.5 stars (out of 5)
Crowd Favorites collects Claire Lynch’s most requested numbers, ranging from four re-recorded Front Porch String Band tunes to ten subsequent Rounder releases. With able backing from Jim Hurst and Missy Raines, among others, Lynch skillfully traverses a wide range of musical styles.
Her blue-tinged vocals are the highlight of the grassy “Train Long Gone” and the more overtly bluesy “Jealousy.” The straight-up swing of “Fallin’ In Love” would have benefited from some of those blues.
Lynch switches gears with the classic country tune, “Silver and Gold,” and fares equally well on the full-out grass of “If Wishes Were Horses.” The rollicking, Cajun-inflected “Thibodeaux” gives the strongest hint of the great time to be had at a Claire Lynch show.
“The Day That Lester Died“ mourns Lester Flatt in the context of bluegrass’ growing pains. A fragment of “On My Mind” makes a poignant coda.
Lynch’s gorgeous voice is one of the most recognizable in acoustic music, but her skill as a songwriter makes her work ripe for interpretation.
“Sweetheart, Darlin’ of Mine” delights with its ethereal harmonies. “Kennesaw Line,” about death on the battlefield, builds slowly to an intense, emotional peak. “Your Presence is My Favorite Gift” is a sweet slice of country gospel, while “Hills of Alabam,’” with its aching vocal, uses a contemporary folk setting for a lyric about lonely life on the road.
As different as these numbers are, any of them would be at home on Nanci Griffith’s next CD of cover tunes, or one of Jennifer Warnes’ increasingly rare new releases.
“Friends for a Lifetime,” a tender valentine from a mother to her infant son, seems ripe for the picking the next time the folks at Disney decide to do an animated fairy tale. If that happened, Lynch would become the deserving favorite of a much bigger crowd.
by Maria Morgan Davis