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Claire Lynch Announces New Album 'Dear Sister'

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Claire Lynch - Dear SisterNashville, TN -- Acclaimed bluegrass singer-songwriter Claire Lynch presents her much-anticipated Compass Records debut album Dear Sister, arriving May 28th. By any measure, Claire Lynch is high on the roots music world’s A-list. Her accolades include two International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year Awards, 2 GRAMMY nominations for Best Bluegrass Album, songs recorded by such luminaries as Patty Loveless, The Seldom Scene, Cherryholmes, Kathy Mattea, the Whites and Stephanie Davis, and now the 2012 United States Artists $50,000 Walker Fellowship.

But it’s as a bluegrass bandleader that she’s best known and her current lineup is her strongest yet, featuring like-minded musicians blending tradition and innovation - two-time IBMA-winning bassist-clawhammer banjo player-dancer-percussionist Mark Schatz, mandolinist-guitarist Matt Wingate and 21-year-old string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18, won an unprecedented Triple Crown at Winfield, Kansas - taking first place honors in the flatpicking guitar, mandolin and fiddle contests. “There’s wonderful live chemistry in this band,” she says. “Granted, the show is focused around me, but it speaks volumes of what we create together.”

Her bluegrass bona fides include two IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards, but she continues expanding her musical vision, incorporating swing, vintage country, old-timey, Celtic and delicate singer-songwriter balladry. Lynch co-led the acclaimed Alabama-based Front Porch String Band for many years with her ex-husband, singer-mandolinist Larry Lynch, before forming her own Claire Lynch Band, a band that has featured masters like bassist Missy Raines, guitarist Jim Hurst and mandolinist David Harvey.

It is always Claire herself and that angelic voice that remains front and center. Claire has all the basic tools that make a great singer - impeccable pitch, tone and phrasing - but what truly sets her apart is the way she harnesses her considerable gifts to express the feeling as well as the meaning of a song. She is fluent in the complete vocabulary of human emotion and in her delivery we feel it vividly.

There’s girlish innocence in the unrequited love song “How Many Moons”; the regret and relentless road weariness in the locomotive rhythm of “Doin’ Time” a track that features Tim O’Brien; her joy at letting her bluegrass pony run in a feisty remake of the Osborne Brothers’ classic, “I’ll be Alright Tomorrow,” featuring Compass co-founder Alison Brown on banjo. On Pierce Pettis’ “That Kind of Love,” she’s the voice of clear-eyed experience. Along the way there’s the full-tilt country of “Everybody Knows I’ve Been Cryin’,” and “Buttermilk Road/The Arbours,” a song/fiddle tune medley that’s simultaneously contemporary and old-timey, featuring Mark Schatz on clawhammer banjo and “hambone” percussion.

However, the emotional lodestone of the album is the title song, “Dear Sister.” Co-written by Claire and the remarkable Louisa Branscomb, “Dear Sister” has its roots in Louisa’s ’s family tree. “Her great-great-great aunt from Union Springs, deep in Southern Alabama, had four brothers who fought in the Civil War and they all wrote letters home to her,” Claire explains.

The aunt saved the letters in a trunk, where they were discovered more than 100 years later. Louisa’s cousin Frank edited them into a book entitled Dear Sister. Piecing together information from the letters, Claire and Louisa believe it’s likely that at least one brother fought in the famous Battle of Stones River, on the outskirts of Murfreesboro, Tennessee., which lasted three days and resulted in nearly 25,000 casualties.

The song imagines what that brother might have written just before the fighting began on Dec. 31, 1862, using historical accounts that tell of each side singing battle hymns until both came together in what was then a fairly new popular tune, “Home Sweet Home.” It’s on this song you hear very clearly why Claire Lynch is a once-in-a-generation voice. She brings it viscerally to life, capturing the dread of the soldiers waiting to fight, the love of home that inspired both sides and the hope that death is not the end. It all comes together in the heartbreaking way she sings two simple words - “sweet home.”

Anyone needing an introduction to Claire Lynch will find it all on the 10 tracks on Dear Sister. She takes classic bluegrass and Americana themes of love and home and at once makes them both universal and utterly contemporary leaving little question about her place in the pantheon of acoustic music's greatest voices.

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