Is Rhonda Vincent’s new CD country or bluegrass?
The five-time Grammy nominee’s newest CD, “Only Me,” set for release on January 28, features both genres, with a disc of six bluegrass tracks and a second disc with six traditional country tracks – most of them classic country tunes like George Jones’ “When the Grass Grows Over Me.”
In fact, says Vincent, her new CD was inspired by George Jones.
“We were on the Grand Ole Opry the night after the passing of George Jones. They asked everyone who was on the Opry that night to sing a George Jones song, and we chose, ‘When the Grass Grows Over Me’,” she says. And while singing on the Opry that night, she decided the new CD that she was getting ready to record would feature old classic country songs “with the steel guitar, which is my favorite instrument, along with our bluegrass.”
For the country half of the project, she chose to record several old country songs she and her band perfomed on the Country’s Family Reunion show at the Starlite Theater in Branson, plus Jones’ “When the Green Grass Grows Over You” and also “Teardrops Over You,” which she wrote at the age of 16, “forgot about, and just remembered all these years later.”
Uniting both traditional country and traditional bluegrass made sense just reflects Vincent’s music experience, she says. “I grew up in a musical family up in Missouri. When I was in bluegrass music as a teenager, people said, ‘Your voice is so country, you should be in country music.’ So, I had the opportunity to work with James Stroud, and did two country albums and as soon as we did the first recording, we got in the studio, and they brought me in the office and said, ‘Can you get the bluegrass out of your voice?’
“This CD almost is an illustration for me that I’ve been wanting to make for some time,” Vincent says, “because, they said I was country, and when I did country, they said “Can you get the bluegrass out … To me, my voice is the same – I didn’t find that segregation, really.
“When I was with my family – when I was five, we had a television show, a radio show, and made our first recording. The music – it was considered country music, though my father might sing a Bill Monroe song and my mom might sing Loretta Lynn, and grandpa would sing Jimmy Martin or Bill Monroe, or Jim & Jessi, and then Aunt (Katherine) would sing Kitty Wells. It was just all the same music – there wasn’t any separation.”
It comes back to George Jones, who “defined this for me,” she says.
“I did the two country albums. I look at that as kind of my musical college years. I got to come to Nashville and learn – I was managed by Jack McFadden in the heyday of Billy Ray Cyrus. and James Stroud in his hey day, and all these incredible people, so I learned all the business, then I come to this crossroads.
“I put together my first band, the Rage, and we opened some shows for George Jones. With a bluegrass band,” she says. “In Salem, Virginia, when we came off stage, it was a mob scene. They bought every CD that we had – there was, like, money flying through the air and cellophane … What they kept saying was, ‘We love your country music.’
“That’s when I didn’t worry about it anymore. It’s the perception of the listener. They thought I was country. I just sang bluegrass and they said, ‘We love your country music.’
“This (CD) “became a way for me to say, you know what, I sing country and I sing bluegrass and the only difference is the instrumentation – it might be with a banjo or it might be with a steel guitar but, regardless, it’s all only me.”
The new CD features two country artists joining Vincent – on bluegrass tracks. Daryle Singletary adds vocals to a bluegrass version of a the George Jones & Melba Montgomery song “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds,” while the legendary Willie Nelson both sings and plays on the CD’s title track, “Only Me.”
Rhonda Vincent’s website is RhondaVincent.com.