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Rhonda Vincent

Taken – 2010 (Upper Management)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Rhonda Vincent

Having recorded a string of popular albums for Rounder since 2000, Rhonda Vincent went the independent route with her latest . Undoubtedly one of the most successful bluegrass artists of the past decade, Vincent's recorded output has been of a consistent caliber. Unlike some contemporaries, Vincent has earnestly embraced overt country-pop overtones, frequently to her detriment. On "Taken," this is most apparent in the syrupy arrangement of the title track; the unnecessary addition of 80s feathered-coiffed, pop star Richard Marx only adds to the misery.

Vincent's propensity toward saccharine aside, "Taken" is a respectable, mainstream bluegrass album. The lead track, the Mike O'Reilly-penned Court of Love, sets a high standard, with The Rage - Vincent's long-time backing group - presenting strong evidence of their mastery within the genre. The band-written road epic Ragin' Live For You Tonight contains several in-house references that may be appreciated by those attuned to the band.

God is Watching, from bassist Mickey Harris, possesses a classic, bluegrass gospel sound highlighted by the band's trademark vocal precision and serves as a true highlight.

Not everything is as successful. Bluegrass is a music of passion and fervor, and songs like the meandering When the Bloom Is Off the Rose and pedantic A Little At a Time lack the excitement and depth that the best of bluegrass provides. You Must Have a Dream, a clunky number augmented by a children's chorus, defies reason.

"Taken" is an album for the Age of the Download: listen to online snippets, and decided for yourself what to purchase. The devoted Rhonda Vincent fan-base may want the entire disc, but those who are discerning will be selective in the tracks they purchase.