Claire Lynch’s liner notes to this reissue of a 1982 release make plain that its original recording wasn’t her idea. Already a bluegrass veteran, she was recruited by Leather Records to make a country album produced by Gene Elders, a great fiddler who’s since gone on to work for George Strait and record with a number of Texas alt-country singers. On its release, the album sank straight into obscurity, and though she’s scarcely a hard-core bluegrasser, Lynch has never shown much interest in recording in straight country settings since.
Regardless of her inclinations, there’s a lot of good stuff on Out In The Country. Lynch’s singing was already fully developed (as a comparison of this album’s rendition of “I Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind” with a mid-’90s one makes clear; despite differing arrangements, the vocals are similar and equally delicious), and much of the material is outstanding.
It’s generally a strong set, with a couple of early Kostas songs, a tender reading of Carter Stanley’s “I’ll Never Grow Tired Of You” that served as a model for Patty Loveless’ later version, John Starling’s now-classic “He Rode All The Way To Texas”, and Mark Fair’s hard country “Heart Made Of Stone”, among others.
The arrangements, on the other hand, are all over the place. The acoustic-leaning ones are fine, and so are some others, with Elders and steel guitarist/dobroist Mike Auldridge of the Seldom Scene turning in solid performances. But “Somebody Loves You Honey” and “Listen To A Country Song” sound dated, while Lynch’s own “Old By And By” is saddled with a bizarre mixture of soft R&B and acoustic picking.
Lynch is careful to say that she “wasn’t ever quite in agreement with all of the production decisions,” and one suspects even Elders winces on hearing the outcome of some of these. Still, the high points of Out In The Country are high indeed.