Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on the Richard Lynch Band, a traditional country band hailing from Waynesville, Ohio. The award-winning musician and songwriter cites influences the likes of Merle Haggard, George Strait, and Waylon Jennings, and his new record, ‘Mending Fences,’ endeavors to culminate those inspirations into something new and wholly original.
The indie country scene is an enigmatic beast that’s difficult to break through or tame, I’d argue, especially since acts have a tendency to fall into one of two categories: trope-driven monotony or pretentious pseudo-traditionalism that loses focus of what the music is all about. By and large, Lynch and company defy both of these categories on ‘Mending Fences,’ which is remarkably refreshing.
‘Daddy’s Words’ opens the album with one of its best tunes, a highly personable, even somewhat quirky song about how Lynch should have listened to the wise words his pop bestowed upon him early on. “I started thinking about all the dumb things I did,” Lynch muses as he recollects parts of his foolish youth. The song comes full circle, however, because as he’s grown older, he’s learned to take heed of his father’s advice and he hopes he can make him proud.
The production and performance quality of these songs is rather exceptional, too, with Lynch offering a beautiful vocal performance atop of a bed of masterful instrumentation. Everything is nicely mixed and mastered, eclipsing just about every other country act that comes across my desk each week. ‘When You Send An Angel A Letter,’ for example, infuses the album with a country blues song that sounds like it could have been off the cutting room floor of a Hank Williams ‘Lovesick Blues’ session.
On the title track, the Richard Lynch Band imparts some fatherly wisdom about always mending one’s fences and not having to discover the importance of doing so the hard way. It’s a lovely contrast to ‘Daddy’s Words,’ actually, as Lynch may likely be in the position his father was in the past. ‘In Over My Heart’ follows, a surprisingly splendid and honest love ballad. The delivery is so earnest, the love tune avoids entering the realms of cliche entirely.
The soft-spoken ‘Crazy Man’ is another navel-gazing effort that explores the kind of person Lynch previously was but no longer is. It’s a more meandering track in contrast to those before it, but the slack is soon picked up by ‘Back In Love Again,’ a wonderful duet with Rhonda Vincent. It’s a nice spiritual successor to ‘In Over My Heart.’ In contrast, ‘Cut And Paste’ is an interesting, albeit somewhat bizarre excursion through modern romance and communication and how they’re negatively impacted by technology.
Continuing a trend of heartbreak, ‘Think And Drive’ is a real downer, but a very elegantly written one at that. The fiddle and steel guitar performances are especially fantastic, and Lynch is fine form with his band on this number. There’s some resolution, however, offered on ‘Things You Shouldn’t Do,’ a solemn resolution about breaking habits that further perpetuate heartbreak. This kind of introspection sets up the finale two songs on the album very well, I’d argue, since ‘Worth Saving’ and ‘Knock Three Times’ follow.
‘Worth Saving’ is the album’s last song to delve into weighty territory, exploring one’s roots and how they’re worth holding onto, using a barn as a physical and metaphorical device. It’s captivating, in actuality, and the terrific, upbeat ‘Knock Three Times’ follows perfectly, providing one of the most carefree tracks of the album as the finale. I love that ‘Mending Fences’ ends on this kind of note, since it does get down and dirty in emotional subject matter several times throughout.
From beginning to end ‘Mending Fences’ is a superb independent country record that’s not only in touch with its own roots, but paving the way for a new artist to define his own sound. The songwriting is elegantly powerful, the performances are equally fantastic, and the overall production of the album is surprisingly professional for an indie artist. This easily eclipses the vast majority of content surrounding it in the country community right now, and it’s well worth a listen for fans of the genre.