SPRING LAKE — For most of her long musical career, Missy Raines was comfortable in her supporting role as a bluegrass bass player. It didn't matter that the majority of the audience's attention was focused on other musicians on the stage. Being the backbone of the music was all that was important.
These days finds Raines, 48, at the helm of the New Hip, a quartet that has garnered a lot of attention for its thoughtful hybrid of bluegrass, pop, blues and early jazz. Raines, who cut her musical teeth on bluegrass and is familiar with the fickle nature of the music's audience, admits she was climbing out on a limb when she put together her band in 2008.
"I was looking to do something completely different …," said Raines, who performs Saturday and Sunday at the Stringbreak Music Festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch. "That can be a risky thing if you're looking to build an audience. But somehow we've managed to do that, and it's been very satisfying to me."
Stylistically, the band takes a number of its cues from new acoustic folk pioneers such as David Grisman, Sam Bush and Tony Rice. However, Raines credits band members Ethan Ballinger (guitar, mandolin), Robert Crawford (drums) and Josh Philpot (guitar) for constantly expanding the band's musical boundaries.
"They're incredibly gifted players," Raines said. "We do a lot of improvising. Someone will start with a riff or groove, and we just take it where we feel it needs to go. That often makes for a lot of fun on stage."
Raines is no slouch herself as a musician. In fact, she's earned seven top honors for her bass playing from the International Bluegrass Music Association, plus numerous other awards. Since forming the band, she has also become noted for her singing.
"Singing solo was never a main focus for me before," she said. "The toughest thing is finding songs that I enjoy singing and that fit my voice."
Missy Raines and the New Hip will perform at 1:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday and at 3:45 p.m. Sunday. In addition, Raines will host an acoustic bass workshop at 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]