Rhonda Vincent

Beautiful Star: A Christmas Collection – 2006 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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Rhonda Vincent is one of the brightest stars in bluegrass, having won the International Bluegrass Music Association's "Female Vocalist of the Year" award six times, and this year, she releases her first very Christmas album.

The album starts out promisingly enough with "Christmas Time at Home," with a nostalgic lyric and an upbeat fiddle-and-banjo backing. After that, though, the album is a mixed bag. The upbeat songs, like "Jingle Bells" and "Let It Snow," feature sterile vocal performances devoid of energy. And Vincent's voice lacks the richness required to carry a slow carol like "Silent Night" or "The Christmas Song."

The instrumentation is consistently first-rate. The banjo and fiddle backing on "Christmas Time's a Comin'" is creative and enjoyable. That song also features one of Vincent's most energetic performances and is one of the best here. Very good banjo, mandolin, and fiddle solos almost manage to carry "Oh Christmas Tree" as well.

Overall, this album will be a hit with long-time Vincent fans, but it's unlikely to win her many new converts.