Rhonda Vincent joins the bluegrass elite
Museum of Our National Heritage, Lexington, Mass., Jan. 12, 2002
LEXINGTON, MA - The last time Rhonda Vincent played in the Boston area - she did not even remember she had done so more than 2 1/2 years ago when speaking to the sold-out crowd - she drew maybe 40 people.
No wonder she could not (maybe did not want to?) remember.
So, how to explain a sold out show of almost 400 folks, who were exceedingly enthusiastic and with good reason.
The Missouri native probably sings about as well as she ever did, but with a few real fine Rounder albums under her belt not to mention the prestigious entertainer of the year award in October from the International Bluegrass Music Association, Vincent's career is deservedly on an upward plane.
Vincent & the Rage, her backing band, played a very strong 85-minute set comprised of many songs from her last two albums, "The Storm Still Rages" and "Back Home Again."
She has a superb voice that readily calls the down home style of Patty Loveless. It's no wonder both will be on the "Down From the Mountain" tour - folks sharing a ken for the "O Brother" style music. Vincent has a lot of emotion in her voice without ever needing to oversing. She possesses a sweet sounding voice that delivers whether on slower or faster tempo songs and whether, country, bluegrass or gospel. "I'm Not Over You" probably provided as good an example of any of the timbre of Vincent's voice, while the encore song of Jimmy Martin's "Hit Parade of Parade" offered a lively dose of bluegrass..
Musically, Vincent ranges between country and bluegrass. That is no surprise given her two country albums for Giant in the mid-'90s, which did not do particularly well and led her eventually back to her very longstanding bluegrass roots.
Vincent certainly was aided by an outstanding backing band as well. There wasn't a weak link among the backing quartet - 17-year-old Hunter Berry on fiddle was quite a find. Kudos as well to banjo man Kenny Ingram, upright bassist Edgar Loudermilk, only on his second gig with Vincent, and Audie Blaylock on acoustic guitar.
Blaylock also got the chance to sing a few of his songs and provide ample backing harmonies to Vincent. Loudermilk also helped in the latter category.
Based on a fine night of music, Vincent seems poised to join the elite of the bluegrass hierarchy.
The Travellers, a bluegrass unit from the Washington, D.C.-area, opened with a winning 65-minute opening set. They were aided by dobro ace Mike Auldridge. Acoustic guitarist Darren Beachley was particularly strong on vocals.
At the end of the evening, The Travellers and Auldridge joined Vincent et al for a medley including " "I Saw the Light," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" for the close of a hot, full night of country and bluegrass.