The Storm Still Rages
Rounder Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/30/2001
Rhonda Vincent has been playing and singing music since she was five. Pretty impressive number right there, don't you think? She has recorded 18 albums in her career, has appeared on TNN and CMT, opened for Alan Jackson, and has played at the Grand Old Opry. And you know what? You've probably never heard of her, and frankly we need to change that because Rhonda Vincent plays some darn fine plain old traditional bluegrass.
After a long career, she's settled down playing what she loves best on her latest CD, The Storm Still Rages. This isn't newgrass, fusion bluegrass, or anything complicated. This is music Bill Monroe would recognize. Heck, this is probably music the Big Mon would have liked to have recorded himself.
There's a reason the B in "IBMA Vocalist Of The Year" stands for "Bluegrass." Vincent is a fine, fine vocalist; she has the traditional phrasing of a bluegrass vocalist combined with a set of pipes that could cut sheet steel with sheer intensity and power. It's very hard not to compare her to Alison Krauss; but while Krauss' vocal style involves precision and emotion, Vincent's is based on strength and energy. It's like comparing Tommy John and Nolan Ryan; can't be done.
The Rage, Vincent's backup band, is a tight bunch. The virtuoso talent of Mike Cleveland (one of the new generation of bluegrass musicians, Mike can't even buy booze yet) on fiddle, Ronnie Stewart and Vincent herself on guitar and mandolin (with some particularly tasty licks on "Each Season Changes You"), Tom Adams on banjo, and Darrin Vincent on bass provide a solid framework for Vincent's arching vocals.
There's a whole lot of talent in a small space on Storm, and it harmonizes into a very pleasant whole. Of special note are the tracks "Drivin' Nails In My Coffin" (which gets my vote for "archetypal bluegrass/country and western lyrics of the year"), "You Don't Love God If You Don't Love Your Neighbor" (useful advice, regardless of your religious path; this cover of an old Carl Story tune has some gorgeous bass harmony vocals), the Bill Monroe tribute "Is The Grass Any Bluer", and the soaring "When The Angels Sing". The neat addition at the end of the CD of "The Martha White Theme" (yes, I mean the people who make biscuit mix) is a neat touch.
The Storm Still Rages is an excellent work of traditional bluegrass, and comes strongly recommended for the fan of the genre.