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Missy Raines

New Frontier – 2013 (Compass)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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CDs by Missy Raines

In an album that is at once layered in lush sounds and whispering in spare, haunting cries of passion, seven-time IBMA bass player of the year Missy Raines launches her well-tended craft off the bluegrass dock into the waters of jazz and folk, holding onto the anchor of bluegrass while pushing steadily at the boundaries of the music that engulfs her.

She's accompanied on her explorations by co-producer Ethan Ballinger on guitar, Jarrod Walker on mandolin and guitar, and Josh Fox on drums; Sam Bush, Zach Bevill of the Farewell Drifters, and former New Hip drummer Robert Crawford join the journey.

On the title track, which opens with a jangly reverb guitar soon backed by acoustic guitars and mandolins, the singer admits that she's both scared of setting off in new directions yet at the same time compelled to do so. She's "a boat tied to the past/looking for an exit," and as she sees the light of morning, she embraces the "first day of a new frontier." The album opens with Raines' spare, pulsing bass on I Learn, in which the singer declares that her "head's an empty room waiting to be filled," and that "every road could take me down many turns/on my knees I feel the earth/and I learn."

With some straight-ahead licks on his mandolin Sam Bush kicks off the kicks-out the jams, spooky, call-and-response What's the Callin' For. On this boisterous, where-am-I-going-and-what-should-I-do shout out, the singer confesses that avoiding the search for new self-identity is exhausting; when she "hears her name" she wonders "what's the callin' for" since it causes you to "run 'til you can't run anymore/run 'til you wonder what you're runnin' for."

With music that recalls Neil Young, The Roches, Courtney Jaye and Alison Krauss, Raines and the New Hip not only take us to the edge of a new frontier but also carry us beyond its borders.