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Rhonda Vincent keeps good thing going

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2008

Page 3...

She left behind her Nashville dreams without regret to head back to bluegrass, having learned a few lessons about the music business in Nashville, and signed with Rounder Records, releasing "Back Home Again" in 2000; "The Storm Still Rages" in 2001; "One Step Ahead" in 2003, "Ragin' Live" in 2005 and "All American Bluegrass Girl" and "Beautiful Star: A Christmas Collection," both in 2006.

During that time, her star has risen greatly on the bluegrass circuit as she has captured seven consecutive IBMA awards for best female singer.

"We had been aware of her for quite awhile," says Rounder head Ken Irwin. "Earlier on, before Giant, I felt that she needed to make a break from her family if she was really going to go to the next level. It just didn't seem to be gaining the traction that would be needed."

"The first time we got music on her, early on, it was one of those very mixed records that it seemed that she wasn't very sure where she wanted to go. It was half country, half bluegrass."

"My thinking on that was validated when she signed with Giant," Irwin says.

"Maybe after three years with Giant, I got an email from a member of her soon to be band saying she was going to start playing some bluegrass shows and would we be interested? I followed up at the International Bluegrass Music Association (annual event), and we talked some."

"Rhonda and I started emailing quite a bit. She was still under contract (with Giant), but she had started discussions with Giant permitting her to do a bluegrass record on the side."

That changed though when Vincent and Giant parted.

"We had been discussing an all bluegrass record," he says. "That's what she wanted to do too."

"If you looked at who was out there in the mix at the time, Alison was certainly including bluegrass in her shows, but she had evolved her sound into her less strident singing. Lynn Morris was one of the leading women and had her style, sort of folk/country/bluegrass, very appealing mixes that appealed to a bluegrass audience."

"Of the people on the circuit, none of the women were going for an edgier, real driving sound," Irwin says. "That's where I felt both with her vocal sound and there was like this opening, a void. She wasn't going to be a Hazel Dickens or Wilma Lee in terms of belting out that way, but for her voice and style, there was a channel that was wide open."

"That doesn't mean that because there's an opening, people will be drawn to it," he says.

"It was a two year getting to know each other and discussing where we're going before the first record was made."

The rest as they say is history.

"I think her success has a number of different pieces to it," says Irwin. "One is the raw talent. She's a wonderful singer, lots of power, beautiful voice. She also plays a number of instruments and plays them well, which is a definite positive in the bluegrass world."

"She has a business background and thinks about business," Irwin says. "She realizes she's in the music business. Tied to that, she's probably the most hard working and driven of the women in bluegrass."

While Vincent acknowledges some negatives about working together, she is keen on working with family.

"The only way I've ever really worked is with my family," she says, adding, "It's natural for me."

"There are pros and cons in everything," says Vincent.

One concerned the intrusion of music into family time with her two daughters, Sally and Tensil.

"We'd sit down together and have a family dinner. Wonderful thing. We always made sure we did. If one word would be uttered about music, (Tensel) would say, 'no music'. It became a rule that music was off limits...Herb might walk in (wanting to talk about music and) she would go she's on Tensel time right now."

"That's the only con I could think of. I love the music business so much and with us working together, it is just in every part (of our lives)."

"The pro is that when we are working together, there is a trust factor. With someone who is not family, you don't know what their motivation is."

In fact, music has become more of a family business in the past year. Herb ran their restaurant in Missouri, but eventually gave that up. He ended up booking his wife for concerts about a year ago.

"I was with one of the largest booking agencies. They had different theory for booking. They thought they could take me out of the festivals and take me inside in a more controlled environment. I enjoyed playing outside. It just seemed a better fit to change agencies, and I'm so glad I did."

"I like playing bluegrass festivals. I love playing different venues - performing art centers. Each day, you never know what you're going to get."

The booking change also led to the title track of "Good Thing Going."

"I think it's kind of a personal song," she says in a follow-up interview via cell phone from Jefferson City, Mo. "It talks about my husband and I. He started booking me a year ago, January in 2007. When he called me at the first of the year (in Portland, Ore.), and we started talking."

"We agreed that if his booking ever came between our marriage, we'd get a different agent. I'm getting ready for a show and we're talking about how everything is good, life is great, our marriage is going great, the kids are great, and we have a good thing going."

After Vincent hung up the phone, she thought she might have a great title for a song. The pen and paper soon came out.

Vincent cautions that one part of the song is not quite true, but she's letting people guess. Vincent lets one cat out of the bag though - one of her daughters is, in fact, dating band member Berry going on six years now.

Now that the CD is out, Vincent is quite upbeat. "I am thrilled," she saya. "The reviews are coming in. They're wonderful. Everybody seems to love the songs. They love the album. Very exciting...Everything seems to be good."

While, of course, hopeful people will like the finished product, Vincent says, "You don't know. They might go 'ew, why did they record it?'"

"I think there's always an anxiety - did I do everything I good? Did I do everything as good as I possibly could make it? You're so close to it. You hear it so much. You have the microscopic (approach). By the end of the project, by the time it's getting realized, there's a almost a sense of confusion because you're so close to it."

Vincent is looking forward to pushing the CD. "We're just getting started."

And that means about 140 shows this year. "I just love it. I think that's the basic premise - you have to love what you do. We have a good thing going. I live a hectic life. If I was sitting home and having nothing to do, I'd be depressed. I like having millions things to do."

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