There was a time, not terribly long ago but at least a few years, when I was producing country music shows for some friends. I’ve always enjoyed what people sometimes call “Classic” Country as well as bluegrass for many of the same reasons that I love the blues. I love the stories, I love the emotion, and I love the musicianship that goes into the recording of each song.
Recently, here at this little blog we’ve been exploring some works that are not necessarily blues, but more correctly considered Roots or Americana music. I’m not too hung up on labels – to me it’s either good music or I don’t write about it. Fortunately, several more labels and a handful of publicists have been sending me great music that might not be right for Time For The Blues, but I still want to tell you about them and share the music with you.
Such an album is NEW FRONTIER by Missy Raines And The New Hip. Raines and Company are well known on the bluegrass circuit, but are absolutely brand new to me. I seriously doubt that they would have crossed my radar had they not been coming to town to perform on Saturday November 12 at the Tin Pan.
I’m a big believer in live music. I think an evening enjoying live music beats an evening of doing almost anything else. And discovering new music is a pleasure that is also near the top of my enjoyment pyramid. New music expands our horizons and leaves us open to new experiences – and if I may, do yourself a favor and experience Missy Raines And The New Hip at your first opportunity.
On this new 10-song album, which is a departure from their traditional bluegrass sound, Raines (who plays bass and provides the lead vocals) is backed by Ethan Ballinger on acoustic and electric guitars, Rhodes, banjo, Wurlitzer, and vocals; Jarrod Walker on mandolin, acoustic guitar, and vocals; and Josh Fox or drums and percussion. Special guests include Sam Bush on mandolin, slide mandolin, and vocals; Robert Crawford on drums; and Zach Bevill (who wrote or co-wrote three of the albums songs) on vocals.
The album starts off appropriately enough with Raines’ bass and backed by Fox’ drums (with brushes). I Learn is a smooth as honey tune that showcases Raines’ expressive vocals and Walker’s mandolin. Very quickly I am under their spell enjoying this quiet new sound.
Blackest Crow is a traditional song that is given a slight update with Ballinger’s electric guitars, but the star is still Raines’ voice. She purrs her delivery like a jazz singer at the top of her game – the sounds blend sweetly and pull you in. It’s difficult to pigeon hole the group, so forget trying and just enjoy.
The second of Zach Bevill’s songs is the title track, New Frontier. His lyrics are strong (and he provides backing vocals as well) and well delivered by Raines. Here, the softness works to underscore the fear and excitement of facing the unknown. It’s a beautiful song.
Raines and company are in good form for Nightingale. Her voice takes control quickly and holds us enthralled throughout. She follows with Long Way Back Home, and she and the band take on a slightly harder edge. It’s a good touch and gives the album a larger dimension.
Raines co-wrote Where You Found Me with Zach Bevill and the song has a different feel to it. The lyrics are strong as are her vocals, but the music itself takes a slightly different approach. There is a longing to the song and it is a real highlight.
The plaintive opening of Kite catches your ear with its quiet simplicity. It’s long been a show business dictate that if you want to force your audience to listen – whisper. Raines whispers for a while before turning Ballinger lose with the guitars. Walker’s mandolins add just the right spice to the mix.
At five minutes even, When The Day Is Done is the longest song on the album. It’s also an unusual selection with its emphasis more on Crawford’s drums and Fox’ percussion. I like the sound very much and hope to hear some more of it.
The next song, What’s The Callin’ For?, has a strong country flavor. Yes, there is some radio friendly country in the mix, but Bush’s mandolin adds a nice old-school touch. The man is one of the best in the business and here you can see why. If push comes to shove and I have to pick a favorite song on the album, this one is damn close.
The album ends with American Crow, opening with a nod to their bluegrass roots with the banjo and the evocative imagery of the lyrics. It’s a quiet tune and a good way to bring this album to a close.
This is not an album that you are going to hear on Time For The Blues, but if I ever get that Americana/Roots/Blues/Etc show I want, then you will definitely hear it there. I confess my ignorance of Raines but can assure you that I will be correcting that post haste. A good place to start is her website: http://missyraines.com/ which has a great deal of information about her, the band, and their appearances – which includes that trip to The Tin Pan on November 12.
Somebody save me a seat on the front row will ya?
(Photo of Missy Raines by Deone Jahnke. Used by permission.)