Claire Lynch's first album in five years finds her with a new sound and band mining deeper roots than she has previously.
Featuring Jim Hurst (guitar) and Missy Raines (bass), Lynch's old partners from The Front Porch String Band, her new line-up also boasts mandolin virtuoso David Harvey. His influence allows Lynch to explore darker, more traditional sounds than she has embraced in the past.
On the best song, "Love Will Find You Again," the poetic lyrics and minor-key-drone turn the hopeful implications of the song's title into a relentless threat, instead of the lukewarm promise one would assume.
However not all the material lives up to Lynch's pipes or the coiled energy that this band never has a chance to let loose.
Lynch's vocals are two parts Nanci Griffith, one part Allison Krauss and a dash of smoky, wooden unknown that has received its share of recognition, but on "Up This Hill and Down," a playful blues becomes plain hard to listen to with Lynch's vocals thin and cloying. On "Only Passing Through," Lynch and her stellar ensemble seem like they are phoning it in and - given the song's Music Row cliché's and pseudo-profundities - who can blame them.
If it wasn't for the quirky surprises of songs like the jazzy "Falling in Love," this CD would be unremarkable. That's the frustrating part because the CD is exceptional, given Lynch's truly great voice and her band's obvious mastery of their instruments. It's a shame that half the material doesn't match the talent in the room.