Album Review: Missy Raines, ‘Highlander’

Ten-time winner of the International Bluegrass Association’s award for Bass Player of the Year, Missy Raines, along with her touring band Allegheny and a host of special guests, delivers an affectionate, spirited homage to the intricate beauty of bluegrass, in all its variety on her new album Highlander.

The album kicks off with the Gary Ferguson-penned “Listen to the Lonesome Wind” flowing along the cascades of Tristan Scroggins‘ layered mandolin playing with Ellie Hakanson’s swooping fiddle runs wheeling around and under Raines’s vocals. Each musician takes a brief solo on the second instrumental bridge of the midtempo song.

Dudley Connell of the Johnson Mountain Boys shares lead vocals and harmonies with Raines on the high lonesome “Ghost of a Love,” featuring the lilting twin fiddles of Hakanson and Michael Cleveland, while Raines’ new song “Fast Moving Train” hurtles down the rails, driven by escalating harmonies, blistering mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and guitar runs. “Fast Moving Train” is destined to take its place in the canon of bluegrass train songs.

Fellow West Virginian Kathy Mattea shares lead and harmony vocals on the haunting “Who Needs a Mine,” an emotional ode that evokes the aching despair of poverty and the insidious promises of wealth offered by mining companies or the pernicious promises of hope offered by drug companies. As the duo asks: “Who needs a mine to kill us/when a little pill works fine instead?” The somber minor chords of the music mimic the sadness in the song’s lyrics. Triple fiddles set the easygoing tempo for the bluegrass shuffle take on Loretta Lynn’s “These Old Blues,” on which Danny Paisley joins Raines on lead and harmony vocals. The scampering instrumental “Panhandle Country” allows every musician to stretch out along its twisting and turning paths. The album closes with the skittering “Are You Ready to Say Goodbye?” which delivers a swirling, fervent gospel message.

Highlander showcases Missy Raines’ musical inventiveness. Every song on the album shines with the radiant light of Raines’ devotion to and passion for capturing the intricacies and beauty of the bluegrass music that has shaped her and that she loves.


Highlander is available HERE


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