Rhonda Vincent and the Rage
With the Steep Canyon Rangers
01.17.02 Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
Martha White flour has been sponsoring A-list bluegrass acts since the early days of the genre. Legendary artists from Flatt & Scruggs to Alison Krauss & Union Station have toured under their banner. Thursday night at the Cat's Cradle, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage proved they are worthy of carrying on the tradition. With a high-energy set of straight ahead bluegrass, Rhonda and her band put on a memorable show.
Rhonda took the stage wearing a black leather jacket and very hip blue jeans with glittery racing stripes down the side. She immediately launched into the bluegrass classic “Lonesome Wind Blues” playing the mandolin with amazing speed. After introducing herself as being from Greentop, Missouri, Rhonda picked up the fiddle commenting “I think I’ll try and play all the instruments tonight” and started the rhythmic chops indicative of a train song. The pining lyrics evoked the feel of rolling down the tracks, making your way back home. She played her third instrument in only four songs when she picked up a guitar for “You don’t know how lucky you are.”
This current lineup of her band the Rage performed very well, staying perfectly in time with one another through a good mix of lightning fast breakdowns and slower ballads. Kenny Ingram played traditional Scruggs style banjo on “Just Someone I Used To Know.” Kenny is well know as one of the original banjo players for the legendary Jimmy Martin. On the old flattop guitar, Audie Blaylock played smooth solos which blended traditional runs with a few flashy licks of his own. He was featured on “Wildwood Flower Blues” from his recent solo release.
Throughout the evening the band’s vocal harmonies were astounding. Rhonda’s high clear voice rang out and almost cracked the glasses on a few numbers. She has two Female Vocalist of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) to her credit. Playing bass and singing the essential low harmony was Edgar Loudermilk. He combined with Rhonda and Audie on the number “You Don't Love God If You Don't Love Your Neighbor” to create beautiful gospel harmonies. In one of the stranger moments of the evening, Rhonda dedicated that song to Osama Bin Laden.
Next it was time to get traditional as the fiddle player Hunter Berry stepped up to play “Katie Hill” and “Leather Britches.” Also in the traditional repertoire was (not surprisingly) the “Martha White Theme.” The benefits of having such a major sponsor were illustrated by the luxury touring bus, dubbed the “Bluegrass Express,” parked outside.
The traditional gave way to her current hits as the band played “Is The Grass Any Bluer,” a tribute song to the late Bill Monroe which has stayed on the bluegrass charts since it’s debut. Another hit for Rhonda has been “Joline,” a Dolly Parton cover featured on Rhonda’s most recent release, “Storm Still Rages.” She saved some of the best for last with a stirring version of Bill Monroe’s “Muleskinner Blues” which almost blew the speakers from her clear sustained voice. It’s no surprise that Rhonda Vincent and the Rage received IBMA’s Entertainer of the year award for 2001. A high honor considering they beat out The Del McCoury Band who held the award for years.
Local opening act the Steep Canyon Rangers complimented the show perfectly with their own brand of traditional sounding bluegrass. Lizzie Hamilton’s stellar fiddle playing combined with Woody Platt’s voice are quickly making Steep Canyon the best bluegrass band in the region. Their set of original material plus a few traditional fan favorites received a standing ovation.
Touring under the aegis of Martha White brings an expectation of excellence. Rhonda Vincent and the Rage fit the bill with their traditional sound and high energy, hurricane force bluegrass. The Martha White tradition is in good hands.
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