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Rhonda Vincent rages on live

By Rick Bell, March 2005

Think you're busy? Try planning all the activities encompassed by a daughter who's a senior in high school - college campus visits, class rings, pictures, awards banquets, prom and, of course, graduation, complete with the nonstop flow of family coming in to offer their advice and congratulations. All this, folded haphazardly in and around a seemingly endless schedule of picking, singing and touring in support of a new record.

Welcome to Rhonda Vincent's world. Either event - a daughter's graduation or a new record - is enough to send one to the brink of exhaustion.

Yet Vincent's life has always been all about family and bluegrass. It's not likely to change much either, even with oldest daughter Sally heading off to college this fall.

Both have intertwined ever since Vincent was a child herself, when at the age of five she began playing drums with the family band the Sally Mountain Show (not ironically, her daughter's name) in her home state of Missouri. By the time she was 8, she played mandolin and eventually graduated to fiddle at the age of 10.

And now as Sally finishes high school and prepares to head off to Truman State University - it was called Northeast Missouri State when her mother attended college there as a teen-ager - mother and daughter are fittingly joined in voice for something of a farewell tour on Vincent's new record, "Ragin' Live."

As emotional as it is for a child's growth into adulthood, Vincent's been preparing for her child leaving the nest.

"Last year if someone offered us a date, we'd say, 'Sure, we're there,'" says Vincent while on the road with her cracker-jack band the Rage for a show in Fitzgerald, Ga., later that night.

"We were so busy last year. It was always a festival or a Martha White corporate event or something else. It got to the point where I developed a fear of being overbooked.".

Vincent's admission of too much time on the road is something of a revelation. Many performers talk with dread when they must hit the road.

Not Vincent. Like everyone in her band, she absolutely lives for the road.

It may not be for everyone, but music and performing is her passion, whether it be 25,000 folks partying it up at the Bean Blossom Festival or a hushed high school auditorium of 400.

Vincent's affable blend of in-your-face bluegrass and sweet country ballads has also led to a catalog of records a mile long and a list of honors, awards and appearances that clearly reveal Vincent has remained in the upper echelon of bluegrass music for well over a decade.

Vincent says she's determined to bring bluegrass to the masses. And, along with sister bluegrasser Alison Krauss, Vincent possesses the chops to achieve such an unlikely goal.

Vincent won a Grammy in 2004, was the International Bluegrass Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year four times and carries a basket full of awards from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.

Not surprisingly, decades on the road and an impassioned devotion to her craft have paid off.

"Touring isn't a necessity; it's something we all enjoy," says Vincent, who after leaving her family's band and her home state - a young Krauss temporarily filled in for her - appeared on TNN's "You Can Be a Star" while in her mid-20's. She then struck out on her own, singing with the Grand Ole Opry's Jim Ed Brown, which ultimately led to her first solo record deal with renowned bluegrass label Rebel Records in Charlottesville, Va.

"But this year, I made a conscious effort to block out time," Vincent says. "I realized my daughter graduates this year, and I need to be there for it all. I kid my (booking) agency that I've got prom and graduation. Don't plan on me for anything."

Because Vincent's the consummate planner - she was an accounting major at Northeast Missouri, confounding all those right brain-left brain theorists by being able to both pick and sing and do the math - she long ago mapped out 2005's schedule and is already working on 2006 and is looking ahead to 2007.

One peek at her official Web site shows an incredibly busy 2005, high school graduation notwithstanding, with dates planned well into 2006.

Vincent almost sounds apologetic for taking time off for Sally's prom and graduation, as she talks about a new venture later this year.

"To make up for taking the time off," Vincent says, "we'll do a Christmas tour. It's something we've never done before. I think it'll be a lot of fun."

Before the holidays, however, Vincent will still rack up enough miles ' that would make any long-distance trucker take notice. From Two Rivers, Wisc. this spring to San Francisco in the fall, Vincent and the Rage play festivals of all shapes and sizes, concerts, private parties and corporate events in support of the live album.

Out March 8 - Vincent will play the Sheldon Music Hall in St. Louis on March 10, where the album was recorded last year over 2 nights - the 21-song "Ragin' Live" is a project she's dreamed of doing for years.

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