Claire Lynch & The Front Porch String Band
Claire Lynch, who for many years fronted the Front Porch String Band, is one of the top draws on the bluegrass circuit. Today, she is the leader of her own Claire Lynch Band, is a three-time winner of the IBMA award for Female Vocalist, and is a gifted songwriter. In addition to her band and solo recordings, her vocals have been featured on projects by a host of stars including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Loveless, and Ralph Stanley.
The Front Porch String Band came together in Alabama in the 1970s and was a showcase for Claire’s wonderfully expressive vocals and the instrumental talents of her husband/partner Larry Lynch, as well as the impressive playing by other members of the band. Several independently released albums brought the group to the attention of Leather Records. It was at the label’s studio in Roanoke, Virginia, where the self-titled Front Porch String Band album was recorded. It received limited distribution until it was picked up by Rebel Records who repackaged the disc and gave it national exposure.
The Front Porch String Band has been heralded as a sterling example of contemporary bluegrass at its best. They fashioned material from a variety of sources to their own style and added a few of their own songs. Selections from contemporary sources included Oklahoma-born J. J. Cale’s “If You’re Ever in Oklahoma,” J. D. Souther’s “Hearts Against the Wind,” which had been featured in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy, and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Go My Way.” Band originals and co-compositions included “Hills of Alabam,” an instrumental called “Grant’s Mill,” and the gospel “Come Unto Me.” Bluegrass and traditional pieces were represented with fellow Alabamian Jake Landers’ “The Girl I Love,” Neal Allen’s “The Singer,” and a nearly six minute tour de force in A. P. Carter’s “Wabash Cannonball.”
Claire and Larry took time off for much of the 1980s to raise a family. Nearly a decade after Rebel’s release of The Front Porch String Band, the band was ready for more. They returned to music with the release of the 1991 album Lines & Traces. The disc featured the Lynches, banjoist Herb Trotman, bass player Andy Meginnis, and guest dobro player Bobby Horton. Two of Claire’s original songs were included: “Some Morning Soon” and “I Found You.” Instrumentally, there was a medley of tunes associated with ace banjoist Bill Emerson as well as a traditional piece called “Kemp’s Jig.” Other traditional and old-time flavored songs included the Stephen Foster classic “Hard Times, Come Again No More” as well as Alton Delmore’s “Will You Be Lonesome, Too.” Bluegrass songwriters added two songs to the recording, Carl Jackson with “Home Folks” and Keith Little with the gospel-tinged “Where Dear Friends Never Part.” Completing the disc were selections from singer/songwriters and/or Nashville tunesmiths such as Pierce Pettis (“Natchez Trace”), Karen Staley (“Looks Like Rain”), Don Singleton (“How Much Does it Cost to Ride This Train”), Crow Johnson (“In Your Eyes”), and Don Oja-Dunnaway with a Civil War epic called “Kennesaw Line.”
In 2012, Rebel released Hills of Alabam’, a budget priced sampler of the best tracks in the collection from the Front Porch String Band’s two Rebel releases. Also included was a track that Claire recorded with Mark Newton called “The Day That Lester Died.”