By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
But. What Bill Monroe sang and played way back when was fresh. Now the formality can overwhelm, making the music sound stale and rigid. Bluegrassers have gone jam-bandy, ultra-trad, folk-rocky, and world-beatish without working free of the problem. Too tight and your ass clenches up. Too loose and you're not bluegrass. Rhonda Vincent reveals the solution. It's singing.
Vincent has the pedigree. She grew up in a touring bluegrass family from (very) small-town Missouri, and for a while tried mainstream Nashville country and then came backwith a big, expressive country voice. She and her band pour the emotion back into bluegrass and give the virtuosity its necessary kick.
Space does not permit the raves her band deserves, except one for fiddling prodigy Hunter Berry, who combines the genre's speedy riffing with astonishing invention. Added to Vincent's singing and stage presencedressed like a jazz chanteuse, she punctuated the lyrics with, of all things, body languagethe whole band sold themselves to hardcore fans and Lincoln Center types alike. I recommend any of her four Rounder CDs. The current Ragin' Live includes stage patter that works better on the companion DVD for those, unlike myself, not already enamored of Rhonda's every word.