Claire Lynch likes The Pickin' Parlor at Randy Wood Guitars in Bloomingdale.

"We go back with Randy a long ways," she says. "We have a following there. It's a very warm room, up close and personal, and the sound is great."

With the Claire Lynch Band, the bluegrass star will play July 27 in Bloomingdale. She first began singing in a trio with her sisters.

"I was musical always, but not very accomplished," Lynch says. "There was a piano in our home and everybody played. Before we moved to Alabama, my older sister got a guitar and I started messing around with that."

After growing up in Kingston, N.Y., when Lynch was 12, her family moved to Huntsville, Ala. Just after high school, she was working in an insurance office when she ran into some old schoolmates who were opening for a bluegrass act.

"That was the first time I really heard live bluegrass," Lynch says. "It really did grab me immediately."

Lynch began dating and later married one of the band members, Gary Lynch.

"We were at a fiddlers' convention in Tennessee," she says. "The guys were picking and I started singing. They said, 'We didn't know you could sing.' I quit insurance and began performing."

John Starling, the lead singer of The Seldom Scene, befriended the band.

"He had writing connections in Nashville," Lynch says.

"He connected with people who made things happen. I started doing song demos and started getting studio gigs."

As a songwriter, Lynch's tunes have been recorded by Patty Loveless, Cherryholmes, Kathy Mattea, the Whites and Stephanie Davis. She was named the International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997.


What: Claire Lynch

When: 8 p.m. July 27

Where: The Pickin' Parlor, Randy Wood Guitars, 1304 E. U.S. 80, Bloomingdale

Cost: $25

Info:,, 912-748-1930

For a few years, off and on, Lynch toured with Dolly Parton.

"We were at Joe's Pub in New York City," Lynch says.

"She decided to do 'Coat of Many Colors' and had me sing harmony. Here I was standing on stage with Dolly Parton, singing, and it was so cool.

"She's really nice," Lynch says. "She's very bubbly, and she's like that all the time. She always dressed like that, too."

Lynch is touring in support of her new album, "Dear Sister." The title song, inspired by letters written during the Civil War, is garnering considerable attention.

"It's the first album in four years because we couldn't decide what label we wanted before choosing Compass Records," Lynch says.

Co-written by Lynch and Louisa Branscomb, "Dear Sister" has roots in Branscomb'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," Lynch says.

Branscomb's aunt saved the letters in a trunk, where they were discovered more than 100 years later and compiled into a book titled "Dear Sister."

Lynch and Branscomb believe at least one brother fought in the Battle of Stones River, which started Dec. 31, 1862, on the outskirts of Murfreesboro, Tenn., lasting three days and resulting in nearly 25,000 casualties.

The song imagines what the brother might have written before the fighting began.

There are historical accounts that tell of each side singing battle hymns before the conflict began.

"They were singing across the hollow from each other, then they all joined together," Lynch says. "It happened all over during the Civil War.

"The units traveled with a regimental band," she says. "Music was a big part of their existence and they used it for morale."

The same thing happened during a battle in World War I, Lynch says.

"The Allies and the other side sang 'Silent Night' together on Christmas Eve," she says.

Such stories inspire Lynch's songwriting.

"It wells up from an emotional place and I take it and craft it and run with it," she says. "The best ones are the ones where I'm able to express my beliefs."