In recent years, Rhonda Vincent has emerged as a creative dynamo. Fueled by an incisive combination of ambition and creativity, she has steadily expanded her audience and honed her craft while keeping a razor’s edge focus on the integrity and immediacy of her music.
On Taken, her latest release, Vincent has sharpened that edge to an even finer point. All throughout, she sounds as sharp, shiny and on-the-money as a freshly minted penny.
She coproduced these 12 tracks with the four members of her long-time band, The Rage (Hunter Berry, fiddle; Mickey Harris, acoustic bass and harmony vocals; Ben Nelson, guitar and harmony vocals; and Aaron McDaris on banjo). This time around, she also played all her own mandolin parts while turning in some of her best vocal performances ever. Taken is also Vincent’s debut release for Upper Management, her own record label.
The songs here range from vibrant contemporary bluegrass breakdowns to shimmering pop-flavored ballads. The title tune, along with a soulful remake of the 1979 Ronnie Milsap hit, “Back On My Mind,” fall into this latter category. Both are bolstered with austere, tasteful bluegrass arrangements. On the old-timey side of the mix, the lilting “Song Of The Whippoorwill” (which Vincent co-wrote with Tracy Starling) is such a pluperfectly high-lonesome ballad that it could easily pass as a long-lost gem from the Hank Williams catalogue.
On “In The Garden By The Fountain” (written by Roger Brown) Vincent delivers a soaring duet with guest Dolly Parton. She works similar vocal magic on “When The Bloom Is Off The Rose” (also penned by Brown) with her vocal guests Sally Berry and Tensel Sandker. On the woefully sad “A Little At A Time,” Vincent employs her subtle and artful sense of vocal phrasing to wring several handkerchiefs worth of sweet pathos out of the tortured lyrics. In a far more lighthearted vein, “Ragin’ Live For You” is a rollicking, autobiographical celebration where Vincent and her long-time band showcase their hot licks and their sheer love of performing live.
All in all, the Rhonda Vincent we hear on these tracks has matured and refined her talents to a new pinnacle. It’s hard to imagine how she’ll top these performances. Then again, it seems certain that she’ll find a way. (Upper Mgmt. Music, 1036 Tulip Grove Rd., Nashville, TN 37076, www.rhondavincent.com.) BA