New direction for bluegrass bassist Missy Raines

A child of bluegrass who grew up in Short Gap, W. Va., going to festivals with her parents, Missy Raines "was lucky enough to see all my heroes — Seldom Scene, the New Grass Revival, Tony Rice and David Grisman."

Her father, who built tires at the Kelly Springfield factory, came home with a stand-up bass one day. Even though it was taller than she was, she picked it up naturally at 11 and soon she was taking it to festivals and playing on the lawn with friends and "jamming until I couldn't see anymore and they would bring me home asleep in the car the whole way back."

By her teenage years, she imagined one day making a living with her bass on bluegrass stages across the country.

"I used to think it would be so cool and so easy," she says. "And it is cool, but it's not so easy."

For years, she toured with the Grammy-award-winning Claire Lynch Band or as one-half of the Jim Hurst and Missy Raines duo, also collaborating with traditional bluegrass stalwarts like Kenny Baker, Jesse McReynold and Josh Graves. Along the way, she picked up seven Bass Player of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

But now she's taking it in a different direction with the stark departure of her latest album "New Frontier." Some might file it under "Newgrass," but it's really more Americana with occasional pop hooks and rock flurries, almost along the lines of early Lucinda Williams (but without so much longing) or Rosanne Cash (but without so much baggage).

To put it simply, she says it's "what I had to do."

Before Raines headlines the Sonoma County Bluegrass and Folk Festival in Sebastopol this weekend, she took a break to chat about playing from the heart, her loyal fans and J.R.R. Tolkien:

<strong>Q: You've played Sonoma County a few times before. What do you like about the area?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> It's so beautiful, it reminds me of The Shire (homeland of the Hobbits in the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy).

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