About Royal Traveller
From her tenure playing with The Claire Lynch Band, Eddie Adcock, Josh Graves, Jim Hurst, Kenny Baker, and Jesse McReynolds to her 7 IBMA Bass Player of the Year awards, Missy Raines has proven herself without doubt as an iconic bluegrass instrumentalist. But with her newest release, Royal Traveller, Raines has stepped into the spotlight as a songwriter for the first time. The album digs deep into Raines' family life and her upbringing in West Virginia. Featuring previous and current members of her live band, as well as cameos from other bluegrass greats such as Stuart Duncan and Tim O'Brien, the album is a gorgeous look into the perspective, history, and musical influences of one of Nashville’s most beloved musicians, Missy Raines.
Royal Traveller is Raines' third album for Compass Records, and the first produced by Compass' owner and founder, and renowned banjo player Alison Brown. "I went into this project with Alison with the mindset that I wanted to stretch myself and see what I could do. I think we achieved what I was looking for, which is something further reaching and deeper than what I would have accomplished on my own," says Raines. The title track, co-written with friend and mentor, Ed Snodderly, was inspired by the imprinted words on a vintage suitcase, which she noticed for the first time before a long solo drive through a snowstorm on a very familiar road ending in her West Virginia hometown. The words struck a deep chord in that moment, and became a metaphor for the many things we carry around in our lives, what there’s room for and what there isn’t.
The album opens with "Allegheny Town", named for the Allegheny Mountains where Raines' grew up. The song explores the various choices made by Raines and her family members that led some to stay put and led her away on a very different path. Unlike some of her more jazz influenced material, the song is a musical return to her roots as well, with a gentle bluegrass feel and beautiful three part harmonies.
Raines was close to her family, and was one of just two siblings to move away from her hometown when she began touring and eventually was offered a job playing for Bluegrass legend, Eddie Adcock. Raines' brother moved to Los Angeles, and became a victim of the AIDs crisis in the early 90’s. "When he became really sick, I decided to quit the band, and took a job in a cafeteria at a local factory. “I moved him from LA to Nashville and my mother, myself, and my husband Ben, were his primary caretakers," says Raines. It was difficult time for her personally but also professionally, not only because she was taking time off of the road, but also because she was forced to recon with intolerant attitude towards homosexuality and lack of understanding regarding the AIDs crisis.
After her brother passed away, Raines joined the The Brother Boys from Johnson City, and began working with Ed Snodderly, who became an important influence on Raines’ musical approach and writing. Soon after, she joined Claire Lynch and The Front Porch String Band, later the Claire Lynch Band with whom she toured off and on until leaving to pursue her solo career in 2009. While playing with Claire Lynch, she became the first woman to win IBMA's Bass Player of the Year award (1998), and she went on to win the title more than any other bass player in IBMA history. Royal Traveller highlights this particular piece of Raines' history with the stand-out track “Swept Away,” which features the first five women to win International Bluegrass Music Association instrumentalist awards, Raines (bass), Brown (banjo), Sierra Hull (mandolin), Becky Buller (fiddle), and Molly Tuttle (guitar). "When I was starting out, there were definitely fewer women playing, and fewer women to look up to. I know there were certain gigs throughout my career that I didn't get because I am a woman, and I know that because I was told outright," she laughs. "I think things are changing slowly. For me, the doors were slightly more open than they were for those women that came before me, and I hope that for the next generation of female musicians, the doors will be opened slightly further than they were for me.”
With her new album, Raines tells her story with a vulnerability and bold honesty that rings clear, spoken through beautiful arrangements and well chosen musical collaborations. With nods to many of the varied and challenging chapters of her life, the songs speak volumes of Raines tenacity and musicianship, and her ability to rise to bluegrass fame despite the various confinements of the times. The listener is presented with a striking window into the up and down ride of a very royal traveller, the one and only Missy Raines.