100 Greatest Women, #63: Rhonda Vincent

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May 3, 2008

100 Greatest Women

#63

Rhonda Vincent

We talk a lot about country artists who cross over to pop, only to find that the crossover audience isn’t as friendly as the one they left behind. When Rhonda Vincent left bluegrass to cross over to mainstream country music, she didn’t stay away for long, but she received one hell of a homecoming when she went back to her bluegrass roots.

Vincent had been a multi-faced performer from the start. She grew up on stage, playing in her family’s band, The Sally Mountain Show. Her skill with the mandolin, guitar and fiddle was prodigious, and she was soon well-established enough to go out on her own. She gained exposure from a stint on the TNN reality contest, You Can Be a Star, and began singing with Opry legend Jim Ed Brown. By the end of the eighties, she was recording for Rebel Records.

Over the course of just three years, she released four studio albums for Rebel, the final of which – Timeless and True Love – brought her the most critical acclaim. It also caught the attention of James Stroud, a producer who was establishing a Nashville office for Giant Records. The label was off to a strong start with Clay Walker and Carlene Carter, and he thought that Rhonda Vincent had mainstream country potential.

She signed with the label, and released her first country album in 1993, Written in the Stars. It featured “Mama Knows the Highway,” which would become a hit for Hal Ketchum that same year, and “I’m Not Over You,” which she would record again in 2002.

When the album didn’t catch on, Vincent was stuck in limbo for three years. She resurfaced at Warner Bros. and released her second country album, Trouble Free, in 1996. It was a stellar album, far more traditional and featuring gorgeous harmonies from Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton. When the album didn’t meet expectations, however, her deal came to an end.

Vincent chose to rededicate herself to her first love of bluegrass music, and when she returned to the genre at the turn of the century, she found an adoring audience waiting for her. Since releasing Back Home Again in 2000, Rhonda Vincent has been a bluegrass superstar. She won the IBMA Female Vocalist award an unprecedented seven times, breaking the record of five held by Alison Krauss.

When a car accident kept her from live auditions, she hired her band over the internet. She dubbed them The Rage, and they lived up to their names. Rhonda Vincent & The Rage quickly astounded audiences on the bluegrass circuit, and they were honored with the IBMA Entertainer of the Year award in 2001.

Ironically, it was her return to bluegrass that brought Vincent her most mainstream success. Her albums now regularly impact the country charts, and she’s become a regular on the country music video channels. For nearly a decade, she’s been the leading female ambassador of bluegrass music, proving that you can indeed go home again.

Rhonda Vincent

Essential Singles

  • “What More Do You Want From Me,” 1996
  • “I’m Not Over You,” 2002
  • “You Can’t Take it With You,” 2004
  • “If Heartaches Had Wings,” 2005
  • “Heartbreaker’s Alibi” (with Dolly Parton), 2006

Essential Albums

  • Timeless and True Love (1991)
  • Trouble Free (1996)
  • The Storm Still Rages (2001)
  • One Step Ahead (2003)
  • Ragin’ Live (2005)

Industry Awards

  • IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006
  • IBMA Entertainer of the Year – 2001
  • IBMA Song of the Year – “Kentucky Borderline”, 2004

==> #62. Lacy J. Dalton

<== #64. Billie Jo Spears

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List

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  1. Cowboy Blue says:

    Nice!! She never gets enough credit as a country artist.

  2. LeeannNo Gravatar says:

    We saw her at a bluegrass festival here in Maine a couple of summers ago! It was a great show. Her mom was even there and sang a song with her.

  3. Kim from MONo Gravatar says:

    Rhonda Vincent is an awesome talent! She’s a beautiful person, inside and out. She always takes time to meet and greet her fans. She has put together a stellar band! Rhonda Vincent indeed has a “Good Thing Going”.

  4. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Rhonda Vincent is the best female voice in bluegrass today, bar none. In fact her voice is one of the few that I would dream of comparing with Connie (the other names that come to mind are Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Streisand and Sarah Vaughan)

    Her albums always are in the very good to great range and she is in much demand as a harmony and duet singer. Her country albums deserved a better fate and she even handles western swing effortlessly. Her early bluegrass albums contain many gems

  5. Cowboy Blue says:

    Well Paul I wouldn’t say Rhonda is the “best female voice in bluegrass today”. Alison Krauss, who I hope to eventually see on this list, is by far the best. But Rhonda is a close second and is definatly giving Alison a run for her money for that title. I guess it should also be considered that Alison has shifted to more of a country artist and Rhonda has been winning female vocalist awards in bluegrass non-stop so if she hasn’t vaulted over Alison yet, she will very soon.

  6. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with Paul here. My first draft of this post had the opening line: “If you ask a country music fan who the biggest female bluegrass star is, they’d say Alison Krauss. If you ask a bluegrass fan, they’d say Rhonda Vincent.”

    This isn’t to criticize her in any way. Alison Krauss didn’t so much leave the bluegrass scene as transcend it. She still incorporates that style into her work, but for most of this decade, what she’s been doing is pretty much genreless, though the country music industry (not counting radio) does its best to claim her as much as they can. And she is a country music icon, even though she’s never made a deliberate attempt to be one. She’s been embraced “as is”, which is no small feat in itself.

  7. I’ve been trying to see her live for a few years now but haven’t been able to catch her show. My grandfather just recently saw her and he says it’s the best live show he’s ever seen. I was wondering wether or not she’d make the list.

  8. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    It is not a knock against Alison Krausee to feel that her voice is behind that of Rhonda Vincent (and also Cia Cherryholme). Rhonda has a lovely shimmering voice that harmonizes well and sings lead effectively. What she does not have is the raw power of a Connie Smith or Rhonda Vincent.

    Recent albums have also shown Ms Vincent to be an effective songwriter. One of these days country audiences will re-discover Rhonda Vincent the way “Classic Country” audiences already have

  9. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    Vincent is an interesting case for me. Her talent is obvious (I agree with Paul that Vincent has a more powerful voice than Alison Krauss, though I’d still argue that Krauss is the better “technical” singer), but there’s just very little of her material that I really care for.

    I wonder if I’ve not heard the right albums, so I’m eager to check out those that have been listed here and would gladly take any further recommendations. She’s someone I want to like, but something just hasn’t clicked. I love her voice, and I love bluegrass (and she and The Rage play some of the very best), but the songs just leave me cold. Still, based on her talent and her huge influence and popularity within the bluegrass genre, she definitely merits her inclusion on this list.

  10. KevinNo Gravatar says:

    Jonathan,

    I really liked the Vincent single “If Heartaches Had Wings.” I don’t have an ear for pure bluegrass so I have a similar reaction to Vincent myself.

  11. LeeannNo Gravatar says:

    Me Too. I like her voice, I love bluegrass (but know nothing about it) and enjoyed her show at the festival. I’m just not actually wild about her songs.

  12. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    it is difficult to separate the singer from the songs and it can cloud one’s evaluation of the artist. I find that most of Alison Krauss’s albums bore me because she has little concept of how to construct an album – too often there simply are too many slow songs in a row, I know she can handle the uptempo stuff fairly well but she seems to shy away from it , not only for her own albums but also on albums she has produced for other artists

    I love Alan Jackson and have all of his CDs. I really liked most of the songs on LIKE RED ON A ROSE, but the album was far less than the sum of its parts, not only in my estimation but in the eyes of most “Classic Country” and traditional Country fans I’ve met

    Anyway, Rhonda Vincent’s songs get little airplay on County radio, so many of her best songs never become known outside of bluegrass circles. The concept of a hit single, while given lip service, isn’t nearly as important as it is in country music circles. Also bluegrass acts are judged as much on how well they handle old material as they are on newer material. Most bluegrass CDs contain at least one or two nods to the pioneers of bluegrass and country music, something rarely encountered on country albums these days. Rhonda handles the classics (such as Jimmy Martin’s “Hit Parade of Love”) as well as she handles the newer stuff , something I don’t know can be said of today’s country acts

    Anyway, you do have her ranked in a reasonable spot among the 100 Greatest Women, and I too would rank Alison Krauss above her, but for reasons other than their relative talents.

  13. LeeannNo Gravatar says:

    Paul, I have the same problem with Alison. I absolutely love her voice; I could listen to it all day. It’s probably my favorite female voice, In fact. However, I wish she would add some more tempo to her catalog. Like you said, when she does, she does it well, but it seems as though she would prefer not to do it. So, it’s what ultimately keeps me from popping in a whole CD of hers.

  14. Rhonda Vincent is Real! She sings, plays, entertains – both live and in the studio, and doesn’t shy away from her fans when it’s over. She is able to descern great talent, hence her awesome backing band, THE RAGE, and knows her way around the production studio as well as seen in her excellent choice of guests she includes on her albums. Rhonda holds her own with a band or as solo number with just an acoustic guitar.

    Rhonda is beautiful and friendly, knowing how to be cool, but also down to earth. She is accessable to both professional music personalities as well as her national and ever growing worldwide fan base. Rhonda holds family and traditional values in high esteem, and is very appreciative and respectful of those who have helped her along the way. Always ready to greet new fans, plainly put, Rhonda Vincent is a “people person”.

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