Rhonda Vincent Stays 'One Step Ahead'

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Buoyed by her biggest ever album debut, bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent is also buoyant over the opportunities that are opening up for her alongside the release of "One Step Ahead."

According to Vincent, the album -- which Rounder issued April 29 -- doubled anticipated first-week sales. It has sold 12,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan and is No. 5 on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums chart.

"It used to be for bluegrass that there was a wall that you couldn't go beyond, but now those doors are opening for us," she notes.

"The Internet is the greatest contributor: You can go online and listen to authentic acoustic music 24 hours a day, and people are following up by coming to concerts." Couple that with a video for single "You Can't Take It With You When You Go" in rotation on CMT and upcoming television appearances, and awareness of Vincent is high.

On of the more interesting songs on the album is a jingle for venerable Grand Ole Opry sponsor Martha White flour company, which is also the sponsor of Vincent's tour.

"We did the Martha White jingle from the '50s on the last album ['The Storm Still Rages']," says Vincent. "Then me and [co-writer and award-winning bluegrass broadcaster Terry Herd] were discussing how baking techniques had changed since then, so we wrote a new song reflecting that."

"The Martha White Song" closes "One Step Ahead." The album derives its title from "One Step Ahead of the Blues," another co-write with Herd that features Alison Krauss on backup vocals.

Other noteworthy cuts include the gospel classic "Walking My Lord up Calvary's Hill," recorded as a tribute to bluegrass pioneer Wilma Lee Cooper. (Vincent also paid tribute to Cooper on her last album with "Each Season Changes You.") Also of note is the instrumental "Frankie Belle," in which Vincent's virtuoso mandolin playing matches that of the tune's composer, fiddle prodigy Molly Cherryholmes.

Another thing adding to the recognition of "One Step Ahead" is its cover shot, which shows the glam-garbed artist crossing a busy New York street, mandolin in hand.

"It's unheard-of for bluegrass," she says, falling back on her album title. "We're trying to be one step ahead and show that acoustic music can be hip and cool and change the stereotype image of overalls and missing teeth and a piece of straw in your mouth."

Excerpted from the June 7, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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