Claire Lynch,
Lovelight
(Rounder, 2000)

It's not quite country, and it's not quite folk. It's not quite contemporary pop (whatever the hell that might be), and it's not adult contemporary, either. It's Claire Lynch, and Rounder Records has her.

How to describe this 12-song set? Let's make some general observations first. The production is clean and lean; Lynch and her engineers will never be confused with Phil Spector, and I think that, for the most part, the songs benefit from a leaner and cleaner approach. It reminds me of some of the sparer production found on earlier Alison Krauss recordings, and serves much the same purpose.

Lovelight opens with "I'm Movin'," a sort of up-tempo skiffle blues song, and moves pretty smoothly on to "I Don't Have to Dream," a sweet love song. The title cut, "Lovelight," is next, a fairly standard bluegrass ballad of the modern ilk, and it is followed by "Jealousy," a honky-tonk offering which lacks the grit to persuade this listener of the narrative.

Next up is "Missionary Ridge," a pleasant reminiscence of childhood, and springing out of nowhere is the downright feisty (well, in context, anyway) "Blue Water Holler," a regional waltz replete with yodel.

Something strange is going on in "Stranger Things Have Happened." When I first listen to a song (especially for review) I jot down my first impressions, which for this song were as follows: When Harry Met Sally, cosmopolitan blues strut, Patty Hearst and the SLA. If that confuses you, or just intrigues you, I invite you to let this tune dash past your ears a time or two.

"Savannah" is the best mating of Lynch's voice to a melody, at times reminding me of Dolly Parton at her sweetest and simplest. Voice and guitar wrangle pleasantly for attention in "He Don't Like to Talk About It," and "Sweethearts Again" provides a good old fashioned two-step. My favorite of the handful of original songs on this disc, "These Flowers," follows, and the offering closes with "Keep My Love There," a kindred bookend which offers up some tasty mandolin figurings.

All in all, Lovelight offers a gentle hour's diversion from the helter-skelter of the outside world, and I look forward to future offerings from Lynch as her career unfolds.

[ by Gilbert Head ]



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