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Bluegrass Preformer Rhonda Vincent Moves <i>One Step Ahead</i> - 2003-06-01

Rhonda Vincent started performing in her parent's bluegrass band when she was just three years old. She released her first solo recording when she was 26. Four years later, Rhonda Vincent signed a contract with a major record label in Nashville, and began performing commercial country music rather than bluegrass.

More recently, she's returned to her roots. One Step Ahead is the third bluegrass CD Rhonda Vincent has recorded since leaving Nashville, and, it's got a good mix of the old style and modern sounds.

Billboard magazine's one-line review of Rhonda Vincent's new CD simply reads, "what we have here is perfection." That should come as no surprise to longtime fans. After all, the Missouri native has won the International Bluegrass Music Association's Female Vocalist of the year honor each of the three year's she's been back playing the music.

The singer and mandolin player co-wrote five of the tracks on One Step Ahead. One of the originals, Ridin' The Red Line, is a tribute to truckers everywhere, and Rhonda Vincent does a good job singing what's not a typical "woman's" song."

While growing up as a part of the family's band gave her a wealth of performing experience, as an adult Rhonda Vincent is one of the few female bandleaders in bluegrass. But working in an environment that is both musically and socially conservative has not stopped the performer from adopting a sophisticated personal style. And though she may look tough wearing black leather pants on the cover of her new CD, the photo simply projects the same uncompromising and fearless sound found inside the album.

Her songwriting is equally modern, touching on topics not usually found in bluegrass songs. Caught In The Crossfire is a good example, as it is told from the perspective of a child conflicted by his parents' divorce.

While Rhonda Vincent now is a star performer at music festivals around the world, one of her favorite places to perform remains Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. During a recent performance there, she was joined longtime friend Alison Krauss. The two met almost 20 years ago, when a 13-year-old Krauss stepped in after Vincent left her family band for a career in Nashville. Since then, the two have recorded together several times. One Step Ahead Of The Blues, the title track to Rhonda Vincent's new album, features her friend on harmony vocals.

In addition to vocal harmonies by Alison Krauss, the title track from Rhonda Vincent's new CD also features the bass playing and singing of her brother Darrin. There is always something special about family harmonies, and heartbreak is beautifully expressed when the Vincents blend their voices on Webb Pierce's classic, The Pathway To Teardrops.

Despite her years of experience, Rhonda Vincent's music continues to evolve and grow. For One Step Ahead, she's assembled a band that compliments her impressive strengths as a singer and songwriter. Rhonda's mandolin picking is top-rate too, as heard on the album's sole instrumental track, Frankie Belle.