International Bluegrass March 2014
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ALBUM REVIEW & INTERVIEW the two of / Rhonda sides Vincent by Bill Conger Country and bluegrass get their spotlights on singer’s latest album I t would certainly be understandable if Rhonda Vincent had a bit of a musical identity crisis. After all, some people say she sounds country while other fans proclaim her as bluegrass. Which one is it? She puts that question to rest with her new CD, Only Me, a two disc set that features six songs from each genre. Vincent had discovered the answer herself years before, but she was puzzled when people initially began to label her sound. “There weren’t defining lines,” Vincent says of her years growing up in a musical family. “Early on, when I was five-yearsold, we [The Sally Mountain Show] had a television show, a radio show, and made our first recording. My grandpa would sing a Bill Monroe song. My Aunt Kathryn would sing a Kitty Wells song. Mom would sing Loretta Lynn. Dad would sing Jimmy Martin. It was just all music.” When she would perform with them at festivals, people said her voice was “so country” and that she needed to be in country music. Later in life, the country music label, Giant Records, signed her. “I’m recording with the best of the best, managed by Jack McFadden, and recording with James Stroud,” says Vincent. “They bring me in the office soon after we record, and they said, ‘Can you get the bluegrass out of your voice?’ I was dumbfounded when I heard that.” Later on, a confused Vincent received clarity on the issue thanks to, she says, George Jones. She had put together her first bluegrass band and was opening shows for the Hall of Famer. Then, one night in Salem, VA, the truth hit her after finishing the concert. “We came off stage with a bluegrass band after our show. We sold out of every CD in 15 minutes,” says Vincent. “ It was like this mob scene! It was unbelievable. They were saying, ‘We love your country music.’ It was like a light bulb went on: It’s the perception of the listener. It doesn’t matter.” Vincent’s first disc on the new project is geared towards bluegrass with songs like “Busy City,” “I’d Rather Hear I Don’t Love You (Than Nothing At All),” and “I Need Somebody Bad Tonight.” Country singer Daryle Singletary helps out on “We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds,” while country legend Willie Nelson stepped into the studio to pick and sing on the title cut, “Only Me.” “I purposely did that,” Vincent explains. “The obvious choice would have been to put him and Daryle on the country side. I thought it would be more unique to have them sing on the bluegrass side. Then, to have Willie play was unbelievable. You know his guitar style the minute he starts playing.” Rhonda and her band, The Rage opened for Nelson at the Ryman Auditorium in 2009. The two didn’t sing together then, but she had the opportunity to meet him. “We recorded at separate times,” Vincent explains about having Nelson sing on 16 International Bluegrass www.ibma.org