Review - Rhonda Vincent and the Rage
Rhonda Vincent and The Rage
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Oct. 31
Rhonda Vincent, acclaimed by the International Bluegrass Music Association as Female Vocalist of the Year from 2000 to 2006, brought her mandolin, four fleet-fingered sidemen, and the proverbial “three chords and the truth” to the Troy Music Hall for a debut performance of blue-ribbon bluegrass.
The Missouri-born Vincent began playing in the 1960s as a child in her family’s band, the Sally Mountain Show (her brother and bandmate Darrin also played with Ricky Skaggs), and by the 1970s she had earned kudos as a mandolinist as well as a singer. After an attempt in the 1990s to cross over into mainstream country failed to bear fruit, Vincent returned to bluegrass and with it its top vocal honors.
her strong, slightly nasal soprano recalling Dolly Parton, Vincent
offered songs from both the bluegrass and vintage country repertoires.
Her selections often had striking melodic phrases rising high up the
notes of a chord, allowing her to showcase her lovely voice and singing
ability. The themes of many of the songs dealt, of course, with
heartache as a lifestyle: the elderly widow saying farewell at her
husband of 60 years’ funeral, the spouse of the departed Kentuckian
wondering if “the grass was bluer on the Other Side,” and the
extinguished fire of a marriage gone cold.
Wearing a red-and-black gown, Vincent, supported by Aaron McDaris on banjo, Mike Harris on bass, Ben Helson on guitar, and Hunter Berry on fiddle, opened the first of two sets with “Kentucky Borderline” an ode to a train of the famed Louisville and Nashville railroad line which featured a smoldering flatpicking guitar break by the tall, lanky Helson. He also contributed fine fretwork on a Bill Monroe instrumental, “Pike County Breakdown.”
Another standout in the first set was the gospel number, “When I Travel My Last Mile,” in which Vincent and Harris began as a vocal duet, and then, after an ascending half-step modulation, expanded into a quartet with the addition of McDaris and Helson.
Like Flatt and Scruggs before her, Vincent is sponsored by Martha White Flour. During the second set she delivered an obviously obligatory sales pitch for the brand’s muffin mix, which included tossing out Martha White T-shirts to the crowd. It was the first and I hope last time I’d ever seen a performance in an upscale venue thus interrupted.
The band closed with the love song, “When You’re with Me,” and encored with a maniacally fast version of the fiddle chestnut, “Orange Blossom Special.”
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