Missy Raines’ reputation as both a bassist and one of bluegrass’ most preferred partisans is well known of course, but such is her skill that her abilities as a singer and songwriter are sadly underrated. Royal Traveller offers opportunity to remedy that situation while providing Raines a chance to break out of the box and give full reign to her prowess and proficiency.
The album title was supposedly inspired by chance when Raines was driving by herself through a snowstorm, and then happened to reach for a makeup case that had the words “Royal Traveller” written on the handle. Sensing that the universe was giving her a hint, she took it as reason to further follow her creative instincts. Apparently it worked; she imbues the new album with a series of heartfelt ballads and songs of subtle persuasion, mostly avoiding allegiance to any strict style in particular. It follows then that there any number of exceptional offerings contained herein, and even if the quality wasn’t enough of an allure — and in truth it ought to be — Raines enlists an exceptional supporting cast to help convey her constructs — Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, Alison Brown, Todd Phillips, Mike Bub, Claire Lynch, Kenny Malone, Dan Dugmore, Amy Ray, 10 String Symphony, the Steel Wheels, Stuart Duncan, and Tim O’Brien, among them.
Although Raines doesn’t write all the material here, she does deserve credit for making the choices on what ought to be included. Standout selections To Here from There, Allegheny Town, Under a Dark Sky, Swept Away, and Free World share an easy allure and sweet sentiment. Likewise, despite the exceptional studio support, the execution never betrays the slightest hint of overindulgence or extravagance. The material evokes a tasteful tapestry and rich resonance. Every note is carefully nuanced, and while it’s obviously intended to reap mass appeal, the fiddle and that banjo pluck at the heart of so many of these songs also shows that Raines also retains her commitment to a traditional tapestry as well.
Ultimately, Royal Traveller achieves success simply based on the quality it contains, which, in the end, is always the best criteria of a record’s worth. Unerringly affecting and exquisitely executed, Royal Traveller ought to take Raines to the wider recognition she so clearly deserves.