Featuring David Grier on guitar, Missy Raines on bass, Mike Compton on mandolin, Shad Cobb on fiddle, and power vocals from all four, now available for booking.
About Helen Highwater Stringband
bounced, danced, gathered strength, and lifted them in a way that only happens with the right players.
So, they formed a band and named it Helen Highwater Stringband—the tough, whimsical goddess of string band music. It’s David Grier on guitar, Missy Raines on bass, Mike Compton on mandolin, Shad Cobb on fiddle, and power vocals from all four, now available for booking. These are musicians who have performed for decades. Their music is rooted but not frozen, recognizable but not predictable, comfy but not smug. It’s also a steel-railed groove of steam-powered drive—Gid Tanner and Bill Monroe stoking the coal car and one band barreling ahead, eyes around the curve.
David Grier was named an Artist of the Decade in 2000 by Guitar Player magazine, has received the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Guitar Player of the Year award 3 times, and has played on 4 Grammy award-winning albums.
Missy Raines is a 7-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year and a former member of the Claire Lynch and Eddie & Martha Adcock bands. She played as a duo with Jim Hurst and now fronts her own ensemble, The New Hip.
Mike Compton is known as the Monroe-style mandolin player and has played with John Hartford and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. Mike received Grammy awards for his work on O Brother Where Art Thou and played on projects for Dr. Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello.
Shad Cobb is a powerful and nuanced fiddler who draws from deep traditions and has played for the Osborne Brothers, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Marty Raybon, Mike Snyder, and the John Cowan Band.
Helen Highwater Live Video
Music City Roots Review
It’s easy to marvel at the precision of a really well made watch or a Formula One engine. At least I’m into that kind of thing. Exquisite synchronization makes me feel good inside, a bit like music. And we had music that made me feel Swiss watch perfect at Roots this week. When Missy Raines plays bass and Mike Compton plays mandolin, she on the one and he on the answering two, something uplifting and numinous happens. She pushes and he pulls. It’s immaculately quantized, yet incredibly human, like a heart. Everything I ever learned to appreciate about string-band timing and feel is wrapped up in that relaxed, tick-tock, rock-steady beat. And there’s nobody better in the world than these veterans, the heartbeat of the Helen Highwater String Band. Don’t worry, I’ll gush about band-mates Shad Cobb and David Grier for other reasons shortly. But I woke up after the show thinking about the boom-chick, boom-chick mantra evoked by these bluegrass shamans.
And that brings us back to the Helen Highwater String Band, which opened with an original called “Time” that seemed to announce its musical intentions. “Time, tick-tock, time,” they sang around one microphone on the chorus. Shad Cobb, one of the quietest bluegrass achievers I know, has a deserved spotlight role in the HHSB, offering clear tenor leads and defining themes with his rich, raw fiddling. The quartet mingled a swing feel with vocal gospel fervor on “Glory Bound” and delved deep into the blues with the Mississippi Sheiks song “Please Baby.” Being an instrumental freak, I took special joy in David Grier’s original guitar tune “Big Dirt Clod.” Sounds funny, but the clean melody and inventive solos by Grier, Cobb and Compton had the guitar geek student in me paying close and serious attention. I became a nutcase fan for Grier and Compton 20 years ago, and yet I’d never seen them really jam together until last night. So wow. As always, it’ll be a fine tick-tock time.