Friday, December 12, 2014

CD REVIEW - The Claire Lynch Band - HOLIDAY

Image635539812898201570One of the cool things about Christmas music, at least since the dawn of the recording era, is being able to hear one's favorite artists put their own twist on familiar Christmas classics. Bing did it. Elvis did it. The Beatles did it too. I like the concept of time tested classics getting tweaked to fit the artist's style. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Right Miley?

The timing couldn't be better for Claire Lynch to finally get around to recording a scrumptious Christmas album. Oh yes it works, it works just fine. Claire herself admits that this CD is long overdue and “the fates have allowed” it to come to fruition. The result was worth waiting for and would make an excellent addition to anyone's Christmas music collection. Especially if you lean heavily in the all acoustic direction. Which, if you are reading Prescription Bluegrass reviews, you are already bitten.

The great timing has a lot to do with Claire's increasing credibility and acclamation. Die hards have known about Claire Lynch since the early days of The Front Porch String Band and have muttered to themselves on several occasions “wow...what a voice”. What a voice indeed.

But even before having won IBMA's Vocalist of the Year award and having been twice nominated for a Grammy, the word was already out on Claire Lynch, her voice and her songwriting. She has made a name for herself both in and out of tight-knit Bluegrass and Country Music circles. There is no question that this classy offering of Holiday! will appeal to the masses.

We get to hear that smooth high calorie voice nail a few all time Yuletide favorites such as “Home For The Holidays”, “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”. All done with that good Bluegrass harmony in a fashion that respects the traditional value of these musical keepsakes.

I am pleased to report that Claire and her band go far beyond the cookie cutter formula of cranking out a holiday album. There are well thought out and well performed arrangements throughout this 10 track gift. They confidently step away from Top 40 Christmas favorites and include hidden treasures such as “Snow Day,” “Scarlet Ribbons” and “All Through The Night”. The inclusion of “In The Window” pays homage to the traditions of Hanukkah and fits right in with a warm, cheery charm. The cream of the crop however is “Heaven's Light”, co-written by Claire and Steven Sheehan. Precious, sacred and beautiful, worthy of becoming a Christmas standard in it's own right. It is clear that this project was given great forethought.

The boys get to cut loose on a tasteful 5 minute jam of “We Three Kings”. This dawgy, jazzy treatment reflects some of the twists and tweaks spoken of earlier. It doesn't get better than this. Put to work are an acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin and bass wringing out every last ounce of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The 3 Kings would dig this band.

And what a band it is. Claire's Elves on this project are Mark Schatz on bass, clawhammer banjo & vocals. Matthew Wingate on octave mandolin, baritone guitar, arch-top guitar, flat-top guitar, mandolin and vocals. Bryan McDowell on octave mandolin, fiddle & electric guitar, mandolin and vocals. Jim Hurst on flat-top guitar. Christy Lynch adds background vocals and Todd Phillips, who engineered this project in the studio, adds just the right touch of percussion when appropriate. This ensemble, coupled with Claire's unmistakable voice proves to be an achievement of timing, tone and taste, all wrapped up with a big red bow on top.

HOLIDAY! Your Prescription for the most wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas !

Downloads and CD's are available at and iTunes.

Reviewed for Prescription Bluegrass by Marty Warburton /

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