“It was really about boiling it down to what was most important to me in the world, and then finding the courage to go after it. For me, that journey was not just like ‘finding myself’ because everyone is always trying to do that, but it was really more about uncovering the important things, and then staying with it, and feeling the courage to do something like this,” says Missy Raines of New Frontier (August 27), her new album that boldly treads into the worlds of folk and Americana. “Even though it was going to be something very different than folks were expecting to hear, I had to say ‘This is what I want to do, and I have to do it.’”
At first listen to New Frontier, you’d sooner peg Missy Raines as an Americana bandleader, rather than one of the most highly decorated bass players in bluegrass music. For the first time, Raines explores her dusky, emotive alto on each track, layered among the cool grooves and expansive soundscapes provided by her band, The New Hip: guitarist/co-producer Ethan Ballinger, mandolinist/acoustic guitarist Jarrod Walker and drummer/percussionist Josh Fox. These 10 tracks draw from songs written by Pierce Pettis, Sarah Siskind, Ed Snodderly and even Raines herself, and are driven home with the help of several genre-bending friends, including Sam Bush, Zach Bevill of the Farewell Drifters, and former New Hip drummer Robert Crawford.
For Raines, the album was a journey to find her voice, figuratively as well as literally. It cuts to the quick, opening with the subtle rock and sweeping reverb of Ballinger’s guitar on “I Learn,” while Raines’ lyrics resound the album’s empowering message: Follow your heart. It will not be easy and it will not be painless, but if you do it, it is absolutely worth it. “A lot of these songs share a common theme about renewal, pushing yourself out there, taking the past and letting it be the support underneath you, but continuing to go forward. Some days it’s painful, sometimes growth hurts a lot,” says Raines.
Raines’ journey and consequential growing pains permeate the album. “Where You Found Me,” plays like a diary entry to the singer’s former self, the folky Pierce Pettis-penned “Long Way Back Home” searches for perspective, and the title track teeters on the verge of epiphany and self-discovery: “I’m scared of going/but I know I can’t stay here/I see the light of the morning/the first day of a new frontier.” Sam Bush lends his mighty mandolin and vocals to the rockin’ “What’s the Callin’ For” and the sparse mandolin on “American Crow” features Raines, Ballinger, and Walker’s sweet harmonies that close the album in a reverential moment of reflection.
Though why the change for the bluegrass bass virtuoso who now so comfortably transposes to the Folk-Americana genre? “I don’t see it as a change as much as I see it as natural evolution…my bluegrass roots are strong and deep but I’ve tried to expand my horizons and see what else I can do. Exploration is a great way to put it – Inside Out was that for sure, but this is way more focused. I am very open about everything, all the possibilities, and it is a great new place to be.”
The sonic landscape is impressive and polished as well – Raines and co-producer Ethan Ballinger wanted to fully utilize their bluegrass instrumentation in a way that resonated with the album’s somewhat heavier subject matter: “Obviously this was going to be about songs and not about hot picking. At the same time the instrumentation was like, ‘how do we make this not sound like some kind of novelty.’ This is the sound we’ve been arriving at over the last few years, it’s the sound of the band,” says Ballinger.
New Frontier’s inspiring message of exploration and growth resonates with the listener, imploring them to listen again and take the message to heart. Raines shares that, “at many levels, you keep doing what you need to do because you have to. Because there’s just no other option. The good news is that if you keep doing it, you will prevail.”