"Only Me," the new 2-CD set from Rhonda Vincent, answers a question that many have been asking for over two decades: "Are you a country or a bluegrass singer?"
"I sing bluegrass. I sing country. But, yet, it's only me," she told Billboard. Vincent admits that the question has puzzled some for a while. "I was a teenager on the road with my family, and people would say 'Your voice is so country.' You should be in country music. Then, I did a couple of country albums with James Stroud for Giant Records, and they brought me in the office soon after the first record and asked 'Can you get the bluegrass out of your voice?' So, for many years,I was conflicted. For me, growing up with my family on the road, there wasn't this defining line. We performed country music, and also bluegrass music, and it was all part of the same show. I didn't know how to answer the question."
The answer soon became apparent, when left up to the audience. "Then, I put my first bluegrass band together, and opened some shows for George Jones, with the very first show being in Salem, VA. When we came off stage, it was a mob scene. Usually, when you open for someone, they just yell for the headliner, but they were so gracious, and there was such incredible hospitality. They came after the show, bought every CD they had, and they told me 'We love your country music.' At that moment, I realized that it's all the perception of the listener. I should just play the music that I like, and that I've grown up with. From that moment on, I knew who I was."
She said that the influence of the 'Possum' figures very prominently on the set. "This project was inspired by the passing of George Jones. We were on the Grand Ole Opry the very next night, and they asked everyone to sing a George Jones song. I chose 'When The Grass Grows Over Me.' As we were performing on the Opry, I started thinking that it was such a wonderful opportunity to show who I am, because he defined that for me – probably unknowingly. I wanted to display all the styles, and what I felt fits my voice the best. So, that's what happened – a two disc set with six bluegrass songs and six country songs."
One of the cuts on the country side pays tribute to a lady who was Jones' favorite female singer – Connie Smith, "Once A Day." When asked what set the singer apart, Vincent was quick to offer her opinion.
"Number one, it's her voice. She's one of the greatest singers in the world. I love her style. She is very unique. When you hear her sing, you say 'That's Connie Smith.' In this day and age, you might not be too sure. And, that's not just in country music, but in bluegrass, there are sound-a-likes, and you're not sure of who you're hearing. But, with her, there is absolutely no doubt, and it's the way she turns a word, and her voice, it's all of those things combined."
Appearing on the bluegrass side of the collection is Willie Nelson, who lends his unique talents to the title cut. "I never dreamed I would get to record with Willie Nelson. It's kind of like Dolly Parton. You never dream that you would meet them, let alone record with them. It was very special to have Willie sing and play. He plays his signature guitar on it."
She also teams with Daryle Singletary on the George Jones / Melba Montgomery classic "We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds." Starting with his 2002 disc That's Why I Sing This Way, the two have worked together on several occasions. It's a partnership she loves. "I love singing with him. He's one of my favorite people to sing with. I had been on his albums, but he's never been on one of mine, so it was a great opportunity. I thought it would be unique to have he and Willie sing on the bluegrass record."
Vincent and her band The Rage will be touring heavily throughout the year to promote the collection. She says it's a way of life that she loves. "We travel 11 months out of the year. We get to live our dream each and every day. 2013 was a record year for us, and 2014 may even surpass that. We enjoy every moment and are so blessed and thankful."