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Rhonda Vincent overcomes lack of twin fiddles for stellar show

Black Oak Casino, Tuolomne, Cal., April 20, 2007

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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Bluegrass legend Rhonda Vincent did something that few contemporary country artists would ever do. She apologized for the fact that she wouldn't have twin fiddles.

Unlike the lack of twin fiddles on country radio, this wasn't by choice. One of Vincent's band members dropped the fiddle and broke it before the show. Regardless, Vincent and her quartet, The Rage, delivered an excellent 90-minute bluegrass performance in front of 150 people.

Vincent started the show off with "Kentucky Borderline" and Ernest Tubb's "Drivin' Nails in My Coffin." One of the great things about Vincent's show was the fact that her band members got to sing lead vocals on several tunes. All played several instruments and are accomplished bluegrass performers in their own right. Mickey Harris, who primarily played the stand-up bass, sang lead on "Drink Up and Go Home," which featured some excellent harmonies. The show also featured several impressive instrumental songs, highlighted by fiddler Hunter Berry's "Kansas City Kitty."

Vincent put together a good mix of songs into the show, from the humorous, toe-tapping "Polka on the Banjo" to the grammy-nominated "Midnight Angel" and her tribute to the father of bluegrass Bill Monroe, "Is The Grass Any Bluer On the Other Side?"

The band also did a nice job of covering mainstream country music hits. Guitarist Josh Williams asked how many Buck Owens fans were in the California audience before launching into a rollicking bluegrass version of "Streets of Bakersfield."

Vincent came through with excellent covers of Dolly Parton's classic "Jolene" and Kenny Chesney's "When I Close My Eyes."

The most emotional performance of the night was Vincent's military tribute, "Til They Came Home," a song about the U.S. waiting for its soldiers to return safely from war. The song starts in World War II and continues to today.