Rhonda Vincent is acknowledged as one of the leading artists in the field of bluegrass music. An in-demand performer, she maintains one of the busiest tour schedules of anyone on the circuit. Evidence of her success can be found in the fact that she’s a seven-time recipient of the International Bluegrass Music Association award for Female Vocalist of the Year. She’s also walked off with the Entertainer of the Year award, and has continually served as a role model for other leading women in bluegrass, most notably Alison Krauss.
Rhonda Vincent grew up with bluegrass music as a member of her family’s band, the Sally Mountain Show. By the time she was a young teen, she was an accomplished mandolin player and vocalist. When she landed at Rebel for the release of her first solo project in 1988, she was barely 26 and was a bluegrass veteran with over 20 years experience.
Rhonda was still working with the family band when she put together her Rebel debut New Dreams and Sunshine (Reb-1665). She assembled an A-list of top pickers and singers to accompany her on the recording. Featured performers included Bela Fleck, Russ Barenberg, Kenny Malone, David Parmley, Kathy Chiavola, Jerry Douglas, Bobby Hicks, and Charlie Louvin as well as family members Carolyn, Johnny, and Darrin Vincent. The album was evenly divided between bluegrass and traditional country.
The bluegrass sound was more in evidence on 1990’s A Dream Come True. Top pickers and singers continued to bolster Rhonda’s own powerful talents. Guest artists included banjoists Richard Bailey and John Hartford, guitarist David Grier, brother Darrin on bass and vocals, dobro genius Jerry Douglas, and fiddler Blaine Sprouse. Lending vocal support were Kathy Chiavola, Carl Jackson, David Parmley, and her old boss, country star Jim Ed Brown. Two songs, “Kentucky Sweetheart” and “Love Without a Trace,” came from the pen of Carl Jackson. Other effective tunes were Marshall Wilborn’s “Wishing Well Blues” as well as two songs from then-recent recordings by Nanci Griffith called “Lone Star State of Mind” and “Goin’ Gone.”
Rhonda returned to her family roots with 1991’s gospel release Bound for Gloryland. All of the instrumental and vocal support was provided by Rhonda’s parents, Johnny and Carolyn, her brothers Darrin and Brian, and dobro/steel guitar player Scott Sanders. Matching the traditional nature of the music was an equally impressive set of songs, including the title track by Ruth McLain, three pieces by the Easter Brothers (“Wounded Soldier,” “A Heart That Will Never Break Again,” and “Here Today, We’re Gone Tomorrow”), Reno & Smiley’s “Let in the Guiding Light,” and a Jim Rushing-Emory Gordy, Jr. selection that was previously recorded by Emmylou Harris called “First Step to Heaven.”
Rhonda’s final recording for Rebel also came in 1991. For this release, she returned to the mix of bluegrass and country that worked so well on her earlier albums. Several familiar faces reappeared (Darrin Vincent, Bela Fleck, Scott Sanders, and Kenny Malone) to work alongside some new (to a Rhonda Vincent recording anyway) recruits: banjoist Alison Brown, dobro player Randy Kohrs, Nashville session player/pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Russell Moore, and Alison Krauss. In a collection that makes it hard to pick favorites – they’re all good! – some of the standouts included “Birmingham Turnaround,” Carl Jackson’s “Homecoming,” “Bobby and Sarah,” and the title track which was a recent hit for the country music group The McCarters. It was a masterful closure to one phase of a career on the move. (569)