Missy Raines & the New Hip take modern approach to bluegrass

Mar. 21, 2014 @ 08:23 AM

Missy Raines & the New Hip have achieved a true fusion of American music. “New Frontier,” the band’s latest recording, has well-crafted, sometimes pastoral songs (“Long Way Back Home,” “American Crow”) with beautiful harmonies.

The band also can improvise and solo. Listen to the band performing the composition “Stop, Drop and Wiggle” (on YouTube) and you’ll hear extended guitar and mandolin solos, rhythms that recall rock, funk and jazz, all held up and pushed forward by Raines’ powerful bass playing.
All of this Americana fusion is informed by Raines’ extensive schooling in traditional bluegrass music. She toured with Jim Hurst and The Claire Lynch Band, and during her career has received seven Bass Player of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. The New Hip has released two recordings on Compass Records – “Inside Out” in 2009 and “New Frontier” late last year. The quartet – Raines on bass, Ethan Ballinger on guitar and mandolin, Jarrod Walker on mandolin an acoustic guitar, and Cody Martin on drums – will perform today at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.
Raines grew up in West Virginia, and her first exposure to bluegrass came from her parents, who were fans of the music. “I was exposed heavily to a lot of live music,” both in concerts and in picking parties, Raines said in a phone interview from Nashville, Tenn. “By the time I was growing up live music festivals and concerts were catching on in the mid-Atlantic area.”
With the music the New Hip performs, she did not consciously set out to create a fusion of styles. She first heard the music of mandolin player Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, who were masters of the traditional style. In her teen years, she began to listen to guitarist Tony Rice and mandolin player Sam Bush, the second generation of bluegrass musicians that created what is often called “newgrass.”
“I didn’t set out to create a fusion specifically, but … what I was inspired by and moved by when I was listening as a kid, the music that excited me was music that brought in different elements,” Raines said. While Rice, Bush and other modern bluegrass musicians inspired her, she is not seeking to create something derivative, “but taking what’s around you, and hopefully trying to create something that’s a little fresh. I feel like I’m the product of what I grew up around, which was great artists who chose their own path.”
At today’s concert, audiences will hear songs from “New Frontier,” as well as the more improvisational pieces. The band also will perform a tribute to Bill Monroe. “That’s important to me because he was such an inspiration,” Raines said.
Since 2011, Raines has been teaching bass lessons with ArtistWorks, an online music lesson site. About 15 years ago she began teaching at camps and workshops around the country and found that she liked it, particularly teaching beginners. Tony Trischka, who teaches banjo at ArtistWorks, put Raines in touch with the founders when they wanted to expand the bluegrass instrumental courses. “It was a learning experience for me,” Raines said of teaching.
About bass players who have influenced her, Raines said, “It would be hard to come up with a short list. There are people from the past and people from the present.” She mentions Todd Phillips, who worked with Tony Rice, and Dennis Crouch, whom she called “a great inspiration, a great player.” She also mentions the great, late Ray Brown, and Christian McBride.
Audiences seem open to traditional bluegrass and the New Hip’s more eclectic improvisation sessions, she said. “If they listen and give it a shot, what the New Hip offers is a sense of space in the music. … So it’s not like pounding you all the time. There are moments when it’s really sparse and really open. I think that speaks to people everywhere,” she said. Fans who prefer the more traditional approach are also part of New Hip’s following, “and I hope it’s because of the sincerity behind it. What I’m doing is a complete and natural evolution of things.”

Go and DO

WHAT: Missy Raines & the New Hip
WHEN: Today, 8 p.m.
WHERE: The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro
ADMISSION: General admission tickets are $19 day of show. To purchase, call 919-929-2787 or visit www.artscenterlive.org.