300 days later, Rhonda Vincent sparkles with energy
Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass., Nov. 21, 2002
By Jeffrey B. Remz
SOMERVILLE, MA - Rhonda Vincent could easily be forgiven if she showed up tired and draggy at this concert.
After all, she's only been on the road for about 300 days this year with this show the start of the final few weekend of gigs for the year before heading home for the holidays.
And it hasn't been exatly too shabby a year either. She has been touring in support of one fine album, "The Storm Rages On," released last year on Rounder and saw her star rise higher in October by winning entertainer of the year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards for the first time and female vocalist for the third straight year.
But no such "luck" this night as Vincent's vocals seem only to have stronger and sturdier over the years in an easy going, warm, winning performance.
One of the strengths of Vincent is actually her backing band, The Rage. Each of the four members certainly can play, and most can sing with authority as well. A number of instrumentals worked quite well, including such chestnuts as "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and the encore song "Orange Blossom Special."
Perhaps the standout was fiddler Hunter Berry, the the large 18-year-old new kid on the block. He's been playing with Vincent since January, and in both shows in the Boston area this year, demonstrated his musical chops. The kid pays with energy and enthusiasm, but more importantly makes the instrument sing. He also has a good sense of humor with not all of the interaction on stage seemingly planned in advance. And Berry was not afraid to give some good natured flak to Vincent either.
Audie Blaylock on acoustic guitar and backing vocals also proved to be a strong asset. He provides excellent harmonies to Vincent's beautiful, soaring voice. He also had the chance to sing a song from his solo album.
Upright bassist Mickey Harris and banjo man Kenny Ingram were not exaactly slouches either. Ingram was particularly impressive on banjo.
Give Vincent a lot of credit for letting her band play (sometimes one wishes they were allowed to play longer solos instead of the usual quick bluegrass pit stops with one player or another). She's not afraid to let them have a chunk of the spotlight.
While Vincent is a certainly an adequated mandolinist, her strength is her voice. She adapts it well to bluegrass and country (she had two country albums out on Giant when she tried to break into Nashville about half a decade ago) and gospel, previewing one or two songs from her album due in April. Any number of songs worked well, particularly "Jolene," and especially "When I Close My Eyes."
The only low point was Vincent's push of the Martha White flour and baking company, her tour sponsor. Vincent went even so far as to play their theme song, something she did earlier in the year as well. Vincent would be far better not off not feeling compelled to push a product and let her music do the talking.
But aside from that, no need to forgive Vincent this night.