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Rhonda Vincent

One Step Ahead – 2003 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Rhonda Vincent

You don't mess with success, and since the release of her first back-to-bluegrass album, 2000's "Back Home Again," Rhonda Vincent's had plenty of it. So it's no surprise that her third Rounder release is cut largely from the same cloth as its predecessors. Like them, it's full of polished, but hard-driving traditionally-oriented bluegrass leavened with a few ballads and gospel songs, sung by one of the most powerfully emotional voices in any genre and played by a top-notch set of studio pickers.

Still, there are some differences worth noting - first among them, a significant increase in the number of originals written by bluegrass DJ Terry Herd and Vincent herself. Their work fits well with the set's bluegrass classics ("Pathway Of Teardrops," "Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill"), country gems ("You Can't Take It With You When You Go"), new material (notably Becky Buller's gospel song, "Fishers Of Men") and - as on each of her previous collections - a song Vincent recorded previously in a contemporary country arrangement. This time it's Melba Montgomery and Jerry Salley's deft "An Old Memory Found Its Way Back," and as usual, it translates very well indeed into bluegrass.

With brother Darrin of Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder on board once again as co-producer and harmony vocalist, the International Bluegrass Music Association's reigning Female Vocalist of the Year has delivered another winner. Anyone with an interest in bluegrass or in one of country music's greatest female singers will want to have this one.