This morning on Music City Roots, it’s yet another weekend of fine music as we hear the likes of Clare Lynch, The Oh Hellos, Red June, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, and Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes. Jim Lauderdale takes over hosting duties.
About the artists:
Calling someone a “singer’s singer” is often an overused and under-deserved cliche. In Claire Lynch’s case, it’s an understatement. For proof, look no further than her much-anticipated Compass Records debut, Dear Sister, arriving May 28. She may not yet be a household name outside the worlds of bluegrass and Americana, but she’s well known in the households of many of the premier singers of our time. Individually, the women of the legendary Trio – Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt – have all called upon Claire to add her crystalline harmonies to their solo projects, as has master singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester. When Patty Loveless recorded her first No. 1, “If My Heart Had Windows,” her harmony singers were Claire and a guy named Vince Gill. A gifted songwriter as well, her songs have been recorded by Patty Loveless, The Seldom Scene, Kathy Mattea, Cherryholmes and many others.
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.
At the end of 2012, Claire’s long history at the creative forefront of bluegrass and acoustic music earned her a very rare honor, The United States Artists Fellowship. Presented by the philanthropic organization of the same name, the $50,000 grant is given to only 50 of 300 candidates exclusively invited to apply. Awards are presented annually in eight categories – dance, theater, visual arts, media, literature, crafts, architecture and music. Claire was among seven musicians given the Fellowship this year. Since its founding in 2005, only two other bluegrass or country musicians have been so honored – previous winner, resonator guitarist Rob Ickes (who guests on Dear Sister) and fellow 2012 honoree, banjoist Tony Trischka. She performed with both men at a USA gala in Los Angeles in December, in front of a distinguished audience that included two of her earliest inspirations, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. “It was incredible,” she says. “Something like that really gives you confidence.” All of which makes for a lot of “good ink,” but everything anyone really needs to know about Claire Lynch can be learned simply by listening to the 10 songs on Dear Sister.
Yes, she has a voice like an angel. But a very complicated angel, one fluent in the complete vocabulary of human emotion. 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. And she does it so compellingly, we feel it just as 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”; 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-owner 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’,” a hit waiting to happen, and “Buttermilk Road/The Arbours,” a song/fiddle tune medley that’s simultaneously contemporary and old-timey, featuring Mark Schatz playing clawhammer banjo and “hambone” percussion, as well as the recorded rhythms of Mark’s dancing feet.
But the emotional lodestone here 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 yeas later. Louisa’s brother 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, Tenn., which lasted three days and resulted in just under 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 come 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.”
Claire Lynch first made a name for herself back in her Front Porch String Band days with another song of home, “The Hills of Alabam”. Today, at the peak of her powers as a singer, songwriter and bandleader, she brings it all full circle with her Compass debut, Dear Sister, taking the classic bluegrass and Americana themes of love and home and making them both universal and utterly contemporary.
The Oh Hellos are Maggie and Tyler Heath, intentionally-independent self-produced music-making siblings hailing from the great state of Texas. Their influences range from Los Campesinos! and The Lumineers to Sufjan Stevens and The Middle East, bending and blending styles and genres into a unique mixture of eclectic folk rock.
Asheville NC’s Red June is well underway to becoming a long-time southern favorite, akin to the Appalachian heirloom apple from which they glean their name. 2012 was a big year for the band; they released their second studio album, Beauty Will Come, to high acclaim, and performed at dozens of shows and festivals all across the country including the renowned Music City Roots show, Suwannee Springfest and the 25th Anniversary MerleFest. They also performed an official showcase to a packed house at the Station Inn in Nashville for the Americana Music Association conference and were featured with a full-page photo of band member John Cloyd Miller in Southern Living magazine. 2013 is off to a great start with John winning 1st place in the bluegrass category at the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest!
Red June is Will Straughan on dobro, guitar and vocals, John Cloyd Miller on mandolin, guitar and vocals, and Natalya Weinstein on fiddle and vocals. The three have been longtime friends, and first jammed together at an Asheville party in 2005. In late 2008 they formed Red June and went on to release their debut, Remember Me Well, in 2010. The album was very well received, and was voted the #1 regional release of 2010 by the listeners of the southeast’s premier independent radio station, WNCW. With their dynamic yet refined sound featuring striking three-part harmonies, tasteful instrumental work, and honest, soulful songwriting that seamlessly blends bluegrass, old-time, country and American roots music, the band is constantly breaking new musical ground.
What the press is saying:
“Beauty Will Come by Red June just may be the most stunningly gorgeous country album in years” – Mike Greenblatt, Aquarian Weekly
“Will Straughan, John Cloyd Miller, and Natalya Weinstein possess a airtight harmony that will impress even the toughest critic. Listen to their vocal blend on “I’m Willing To Try,” and you may need to have your jaw surgically removed from the floor – they are that good!” – Chuck Dauphin, Music News Nashville
“Red June is one of our truly great bands. They never fail to talk the talk and walk the walk.” – Acclaimed NC singer/songwriter Joe Newberry
The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band features four legendary musicians: John Jorgenson on guitar and mandolin, Herb Pedersen on banjo, Jon Randall on guitar, and Mark Fain on bass. Jorgenson and Pedersen are founders (with Chris Hillman) of the formative country rock band “Desert Rose.”
After working as a freelance musician in Southern California including a residence at Disneyland Jorgenson met Chris Hillman and soon formed the Desert Rose Band. In 1990 he went on to found the Hellecasters and toured with Elton John’s band for six years. Artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Bonnie Raitt to Earl Scruggs have sought out Jorgenson’s guitar work. John Jorgenson portrayed Django Reinhardt in the Hollywood feature film “Head in the Clouds.” In 2008 Jorgenson won a Grammy for “best country instrumental” with Brad Paisley and was nominated for “best bluegrass album” with Earl Scruggs.
Herb Pedersen was a member of legendary bluegrass band The Dillards as well as bluegrass super-group Old and In the Way. A sought after singer and musician, he has worked with such music legends as Chris Hillman, Earl Scruggs, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Tony Rice, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Jackson Browne and John Denver.
Jon Randall first gained recognition as guitarist for Emmy Lou Harris’ band, The Grammy-winning Nash Ramblers. He has written hit songs for Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss and Travis Tritt. He has toured with Earl Scruggs and Sam Bush and recorded with Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Linda Ronstadt and many others.
Mark Fain toured and recorded as bass player for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder for 13 years. He’s toured and recorded with the Dixie Chicks, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton, as well as producing many artists in jazz, country, bluegrass and gospel.
The four are uniting around their strong love of bluegrass music and will include both traditional and progressive takes on the style.
They never look the same at the end of their set; a pair of hip horn-rimmed glasses breaks in half, buttons become undone, and their once slicked-back hair is simply not anymore. But they wouldn’t be themselves if it were any other way; they thrive when they render themselves void of energy, and humbly hope it rubs off on the kids in the crowd, too.
They are Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes. To see them live is to experience the crux of who they are: A high-energy indie rock band dead set on producing the best live sound they know how. And boy, do they know how.
After well-deserved accolades from music blog ‘Consequence of Sound’ for their 2012 CMJ showcases, DE&TGL are gaining momentum as a band you should go to bat for. “Even at two in the morning, on guitarist Timon Lance’s birthday, during their fifth CMJ showcase [in three days], they played their hearts out in pure joy,” says Ben Kaye of Consequence of Sound.
From the source, their songs are: “rock songs, heavy and dark, light-hearted and danceable, observational and introspective,” says guitarist Timon Lance. “We thrive on our songs sounding like DE&TGL,” says bassist Marshall Skinner. And just so you get how much emotional, mental and physical energy spent in one set, drummer Joel Wren points out, “There’s a point in the middle of every show when one of us turns to someone else and says, ‘I think I might die’,” and there you have it.
Formed in 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee, the group released their first full-length studio album, Civilized Man, in 2011. Recorded and co-produced with Mark Nevers (Andrew Bird, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Lambchop), Civilized Man was listed in the top 100 albums of 2011 by Amazon, with the pop-rock single “Shoe Fits” debuting at number seven on Amazon’s top 100 songs of 2011.
“Apparently nobody told Daniel Ellsworth that when you drop your first full-length, it’s not supposed to be a greatest hits record… this sounds like a cross between Jack White and M. Ward, and those guys are about three sips of absinthe away from total wizardry. Seriously, this will be my highest rated review. Go. Buy. The. Record.” says Wells Adams of Brite Revolution.
With performances at CMJ Music Fest, Daytrotter, Audiotree Live, OurVinyl, and just being named Deli Magazine’s Top Emerging Band In Nashville – DE&TGL are spreading their brand of genre-spanning rock with love and care, and a cannonball of sound… all resulting in broken eyeglasses, unkempt hair, and a damn good time.