Missy Raines - Highlander
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Highlander (Compass, 2024)

Missy Raines

Reviewed by Al Cunniff

Missy Raines has said that if bluegrass is a place, she feels like she's there, "standing gently on the shoulders of its tradition," where she can see the whole world. "Highlander" reflects that viewpoint, as it's a bluegrass album that looks back to the roots where blues, bluegrass and country music first emerged, and looks forward to new ways bluegrass can be interpreted by writers and musicians.

Raines' band Allegheny offers outstanding performances throughout, and they are joined by special guests Danny Paisley, Laurie Lewis, Dudley Connell, Kathy Mattea, Ben Surratt, Darol Anger, Michael Cleveland, Shad Cobb, Rob Ickes, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes and Alison Brown, the album's producer. And of course, there is Raines, who is the IBMA's most-awarded bass player, having earned that honor 10 times.

Raines co-wrote the poignant "Who Needs a Mine?" and shares lead vocals with fellow West Virginian Mattea, who like Raines is keenly aware of the human toll that coal mining and the opioid crisis have taken. "These Ole Blues," written by Loretta and Patsy Lynn, is a -tempo shuffle that harkens back to the early days when blues first met bluegrass. Paisley shares lead vocal on this song, which is a rare example where the title is never mentioned in the lyric.

"Listen to the Lonesome Wind," a touching ballad written by Gary Ferguson, features nice banjo, fiddle and acoustic picking. On Ray Clines' "Ghost of a Love," Dudley shares lead vocal on this quick-paced, but mournful song, with great fiddle work by Cleveland and nice vocal harmony.

"Fast Moving Train" has a scorching tempo driven by banjo, mandolin and fiddle play that reminds one of the clickety-clack of a train speeding along the track. "Panhandle Country," from Bill Monroe, is a toe-tapping instrumental that allows fiddle, resophonic guitar, banjo and mandolin to stretch their legs and go for a run.

In addition to being a singer, bass player and songwriter, Raines is a teacher, and on "Highlander" she teaches us that bluegrass's roots are still growing and emerging in new musical forms.

CDs by Missy Raines

Highlander, 2024 New Frontier, 2013

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