Rhonda Vincent and the Rage play ‘Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin’ at IMBA World of Bluegrass Kick-Off Party
Catching up with Rhonda Vincent is something of a thrill ride. She barely finishes describing one of her myriad performance activities before another edges its way into the conversation. To keep up with everything she has accomplished just within the last year, not to mention the to-do list that will keep her in motion well into December, you better buckle up. After all, she’s driving.
“After December 5th, I’m going to stare at a blank wall and put on my fuzzy slippers for awhile.”
One of the most popular, not to mention busiest, female artists in bluegrass music, Vincent has been stockpiling awards for the better part of her career. Aided by her long-running band The Rage, she has taken trophies back to her Kirksville, Mo. home from the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America on a regular basis for the past two decades as vocalist, bandleader and songwriter. As a collaborator, she has regularly and effortlessly moonlighted on numerous country music projects – make that traditional country, thank you very much.
In short, Vincent was, pun very much intended, all the rage as she and her band welcomed in 2018. Then the floodgates opened. First up was her first-ever Grammy Award win for Best Bluegrass Album (thanks to the concert recording “All the Rage, Volume One”). Then came an invitation to participate in an Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album, “Restoration,” that teamed her with longtime pal Dolly Parton (the two tackled the 1995 John/Taupin composition “Please”). Then Parton enlisted Vincent and Alison Krauss to harmonize on “If I Could,” a tune for the soundtrack to the Jennifer Aniston produced (and acted) Netflix film “Dumplin’.”
Enough name-dropping? Get used to it. Vincent, who has been tabbed as the Queen of Bluegrass, has a lot more to discuss in a career that continues to rocket along at warp speed. But the profile of the performance or the size of the audience isn’t the point. For Vincent, whose stage career began at the age of five in her family’s traveling bluegrass and gospel revue, The Sally Mountain Show, every project is built around an unwavering love of singing.
“I go to a very small church when I’m in Nashville,” Vincent said. “Last night when we were there, there were maybe 10 of us. Usually I’m asked to sing a song, but this time I didn’t have a guitar or any instrument. I was just sitting in the pew and the preacher said, ‘Hey, Rhonda, send us off.’ I was like, ‘Uhhh.’ So I just ended up sitting in my seat and singing an a capella song.
“That really spoke to me. It reminded me how much I love to sing. No matter where I am, whether it’s for these other nine people or whether it’s a festival with 30,000 people, I love to sing. I would be singing no matter what. It could be a nursing home. It could be a church. It could be the local opry house. It’s about learning to find joy wherever you are in your relationship with people.”
A similar affirmation of music and life has been echoed in her friendship with Parton. In fact, the country icon was the first person Vincent saw upon returning home in 2005 after surgery for a serious intestinal disorder.
“When I got home from the hospital, Dolly was standing in my living room, so she has been a wonderful friend for many years. She just loves life and loves music and it shows. I have that same zest for life. I love to wake up each day where you just never know what’s going to happen.”
What has remained a constant in Vincent’s life and career has been family. Her brother Darrin is half of the popular bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent, husband Herb Sandker doubles as her manager and daughters Sally and Tensel are pursing musical careers of their own. In many ways, it’s an extension of the family band spirit Vincent experienced as a child.
“I grew up in a musical family. The core was country music – traditional country music. My aunt Kathryn sang Kitty Wells. My grandpa sang Bill Monroe. Uncle Pearl sang Jimmy Martin songs. All of us sang a lot of gospel songs. At the core of the music was this incredible variety.
With a new single, “Like I Could,” finishing the summer atop the bluegrass charts and a series of recording projects awaiting her, including an “All the Rage, Volume Two” collection, Vincent may not have much time for those fuzzy slippers after all.
“You never know who will be calling or what will wind up in front of you.”
Rhonda Vincent and the Rage
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12
Where: Kentucky Castle, 230 Pisgah Pike in Versailles
Tickets: $35, $95