If the wine world had a resident Renaissance Man, it would certainly be Kermit Lynch. The renowned wine importer, château owner, author and now recording artist never ceases to amaze with his multi-faceted talents. With the help of some Nashville’s hottest musicians, Lynch put together a bluesy country compilation of original tunes and cover songs called Man’s Temptation (www.amazon.com; $14).
Be warned, this is not a novelty recording made to scratch a newfound musical itch of the venerable wine importer, who has been bringing in some of Europe’s best offerings for 35 years. Lynch arrived in Berkeley in the mid-60s and was beguiled by the likes of The Grateful Dead and Country Joe and the Fish. By 1968, Lynch was the singer-songwriter for one of the area’s top bands. Drug overdoses prompted the band’s demise and derailed what might have been a prosperous music career for Lynch.
Shortly afterward, Lynch escaped to Europe, where he discovered fine wine. This eventually led to his importing business, but music never left his heart. In 2005, with the help of 1970s pop star Boz Scaggs, a long-time customer of his San Francisco wine shop, Lynch put together his first album, Quicksand Blues, which featured Lynch’s original compositions.
Man’s Temptation offers several Lynch originals, including the album’s best cut “Buckle-Up Boogie,” but also songs by Bob Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, among others. Lynch has a raspy, soulful voice on the order of Mark Knopfler and does justice to Dylan’s “Down in the Flood,” Mayfield’s “Man’s Temptation” and “Rank Strangers,” written by gospel legend Alfred E. Brumley.
Not every unknown singer can get Steely Dan keyboardist Michael Omartian, Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito and Bonnie Raitt’s drummer Ricky Fataar, who produced the album, to back him up in the studio. But not everyone is Kermit Lynch. “Kermit was nervous as hell,” said Fataar. “But he jumped in with both feet, because that’s the kind of guy he is. We didn’t want the music ever to sound labored, so the album was cut 90 percent live. In the end, we captured Kermit’s sound by simply making good music, drinking fine wine and having fun.”
The A-list musicians may have had an awe-inspiring impression on Lynch, but they left with a greater respect for the power of great wine. Dennis Crouch, who played upright bass on the album, requested a bottle of Lynch’s wine at the hotel of every stop when he played on Alison Kraus and Robert Plant’s Raising Sand tour. Obviously, another happy Lynch customer.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator with the Society of Wine Educators and teaches in-home wine classes. You can reach him at Gil.Kulers@WineKulers.com.