Born January 14, 1958, in Seattle, WA; married in 1984, divorced shortly after. Addresses: Home--Nashville, TN. Record company--Sugar Hill, P.O. Box 55300, Durham, NC 27717-5300; phone (919) 489-4349.
Barbara Lamb was born in Seattle, Washington, on January 14, 1958. Her father was a music teacher and a musician, and he opened the door to Lamb's view of music. They listened to all types of music, including square dance music. When she was seven years old, Lamb's parents would take her to the local square dance every Friday night. It was there that she first heard old-time fiddling. She loved it so much that at eight years old she picked up her first fiddle and started lessons. Lamb cites her influences as Kenny Baker and Byron Burline, Bill Monroe, Jim and Jessie, and her own fiddling teacher, Vivian Williams.
Though she does sing, Lamb does not profess to be a vocalist. She prefers to be called a fiddler who likes to sing a little bit, as opposed to a singer who fiddles a little bit. She has always sung in every band she has been in, but she is more of a harmony singer, only taking the occasional lead.
Lamb's dream was to move to Nashville. She told herself that if she didn't move before she turned 40, she would never get there. Six months after moving to Nashville, Lamb relocated again, this time to Austin, Texas to do a 12 month tour with Asleep at the Wheel. She was there almost a year and a half, moving back to Nashville in 1996. In addition to performing on the road with Asleep at the Wheel, Lamb also performed with the Seattle band Ranch Romance on Sugar Hill Records, called Ranch Romance. Lamb left Ranch Romance in December 1993, stating that it was just a natural ending, a "time to move on" kind of feeling. It was a good parting and the band members have remained very close, which Lamb feels makes it great because it leaves the door open for reunion gigs. (The members of the band collectively agreed that they should be broken up for about three years before they started hitting the reunion circuit. They feared people would think they never actually broke up if they started playing together sooner than that.)
Lamb was with Ranch Romance for seven years but is now strictly a freelance player. In 1996 she did some shows with two Nashville bands, Riders in the Sky and a blue grass band called Continental Divide. For the most part, Lamb tries not to go out on the road often. She has her own deal with Sugar Hill Records which affords her the luxury tour and play under her own name. While on tour or in the recording studio, she hires a guitar player and a bass player to accompany her; but she mostly stays at home in Nashville working as a freelance producer, session player, and occasional substitute.
As a solo artist, Lamb feels it's her energy that makes people relate to her music. She states that she is very energetic on stage and feels that it comes out on recordings as well. Lamb's music can be generally categorized as country/folk or bluegrass. Lamb believes that if somebody states that they hate country music, they aren't necessarily saying they don't like bluegrass. They are usually referring to what they hear on top-forty radio. Bluegrass is acoustic music that is vocally driven; no drums. It always has bass, banjo, guitar, and either mandolin or a fiddle or both. Lamb states that sometimes people call it the "high lonesome sound", because bluegrass singing tends to be in a high vocal register for both men and women.
Lamb is planning some work with Laura Love, which will be her first venture outside the world of country. Lamb recorded on all three of Love's records but has never performed with her. Lamb feels Love plays really great African rhythms and she is very excited to do more work with her. Lamb has also said she would love to tour with Emmylou Harris. She has always liked Harris and her choice of music. On a grander scale, Lamb would like to tour with Sting and do something in a very large pop vein.
Lamb also hopes to do more producing, including soundtracks for film. She feels that producing is like being a teacher and likes the idea of being able to use different instruments that she does not play--such as all types of percussion--to bring about a musical texture. She particularly likes working with visuals for soundtracks. Though she is steering towards producing, Lamb wants to be able to do it all, creating a nice balance of performing, producing, and working as a freelance session player in Nashville.
Lamb's newest business venture is a Nashville-based song writing camp. It is a camp for adults and happens during the first week of September. Musicians camp out in a rustic cabin in Montgomeryville State Park and study every day with hit song writers from Nashville. The school will also teach mandolin, banjo, guitar and fiddling. Lamb doesn't call it a bluegrass camp, but all the instruments being taught are in the bluegrass vein. Lamb will be one of the teachers for fiddling.
With all these irons in the fire, Barbara Lamb is building a very successful career and enjoying every minute of it.
by Robyn Weiss
Barbara Lamb's Career
- Interview with Barbara Lamb, March 1997