photos by Amarin Enyart
Since 1974 the Station Inn has become world famous for its nightly bluegrass. This blockish single-storied, stone building now stands squat in the middle of what has become the metropolis of the Gulch. And there it remains, dusty and out-of-place among a professional’s paradise of sleek high rises and fancy places to shop and eat—a relic of Old Nashville.
Missy Raines has performed Station Inn “perhaps a million times,” as she recalls on stage this past Wednesday, while nervously warming a packed audience of familiar faces during her album release show. Royal Traveller, released Friday, October 5th by Compass Records, is the presumed source of Raines’ shy comport. For this rhythm section artist, the spotlight has shifted brightly in her favor to showcase her as a bandleader, songwriter and lead vocalist.
There are two things at least worth living for. Trust me. The first, is the satisfaction of a good crunch, and the second, the forehead-softening calm induced by a dulcet bassline. Missy Raines delivers both to my exceeding pleasure in Royal Traveller, produced by Alison Brown of Compass Records.
Raines’ is transcendent, both on the album and on stage during her release. Attuned to an unseen world, she seemed to be anchored deeply within her songs; driving the backbone with her ‘follow me’ bass runs. She was warm natured and focused, chawing in on the quick bluegrass progressions while calmly consoling the quick timbres of the other players. She was energetic yet also magnetically composed.
There has been much already discussed concerning the single track on the album. A lighthearted, breezy song, “Swept Away” is anchored with hefty talent. The stringed ensemble features five of the first women to win IBMA instrumentalist awards—Raines (bass), Alison Brown (banjo), Sierra Hull (mandolin), Becky Buller (fiddle), and Molly Tuttle (guitar). The only note that I have to add to the accolades of this anthem is that to have seen these women all play together was majorly cool. I girl crushed on each of them in turn as they stepped softly forward to their individual solos. I was—swept away, by their individual expertise, and how that talent together made me feel things. You can feel things too. Trust me.
It isn’t often that a song will rope me into playing it on repeat. The title track of this album though is one of those songs. “Royal Traveller” is abysmal, yet bright. Written during one of Nashville’s recent snow’pocalypses, it resonates the deep chill of a silent world paused for the sake of nature. There is heavy mood to this tune. Eery and resilient, much like a woman travelling alone by night through a snowstorm…
There is nothing, nothing like a bowed bass, and Raines’ tone in this song is a powerhouse, indomitable and fiercely feminine.
Because I am not educated in bluegrass per se, I had to do a bit a research in finding out the difference between this rural, seemingly free form genre, to that of jazz. What I found (and I apologize to any experts out there for my ignorance) was that there is only a fine barrier to drawn between the two schools–with bluegrass bearing slightly less open structures than jazz, and then also being grounded by only slightly more predictable chord structures. With that said, there is a lot of bleed in the style of bluegrass that Missy Raines performs–most evident in her last couple of songs: “So Good (Tell Me What To Keep)”, and “Darlin’ Pal(s) of Mine”. Raines has developed a form and style that mixes and blends each of these genres into one another gracefully, in a way that only a true, lifelong student of their art could.
So much of Royal Traveller is simply a beautiful display of this artist’s talent. Truly, It’s been a pleasure to become familiar and deeply connected to Missy Raines’ music through this first solo release. Cheers to Missy Raines—a lovingly bashful, supremely cool performer. May you have many more years in the spotlight.
Check out the album, Royal Traveller, out now by visiting Missy Raines’ website, here.