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Bluegrass Singer-Songwriter Rhonda Vincent Talks Juggling Projects, The Osborne Brothers and Listening to Her Conscience

Rhonda Vincent
Courtesy of Conduit Media

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent was at somewhat of a crossroads last summer. She was juggling several projects when the opportunity came to record an album with frequent collaborator Daryle Singletary. Her husband advised her to not take on another project, but something inside of the heart of “The Queen of Bluegrass” told her otherwise.

“It has to be God’s placement in all of this,” she says of last year’s duets album American Grandstand, which turned out to be the final album Singletary released before his passing in February. She’s glad she listened to her conscience: “I was compelled. There’s no way I would have chosen to take that on -- in the light of everything we had going on -- eight projects at one time."

Once she completed the album with Singletary, Vincent began work on finishing a historic new project that teams her with four members of the IBMA Hall of Honor. Rhonda Vincent & The Rage with Bluegrass Legends Live At The Ryman includes appearances from Mac Wiseman, Jesse McReynolds, and The Osborne Brothers. She says the set, which also includes a concert DVD / Blu-Ray disc, offered her plenty of “pinch me” moments.

“There’s a place on the DVD where I’m singing with Bobby and Sonny (Osborne), and I started tearing up because I thought I was going to lose it. I was standing on the Ryman stage, and just looked at them. These were the guys that I grew up admiring and listening to, and I never dreamed that I would be performing with them -- or calling them friends. I was just in Sonny Osborne’s house, and I was just pinching myself. How cool is that?”

The set marks the first performance the Osbornes have given together since Sonny retired in 2006.

“It’s been over a decade since they performed together,” says Rhonda. “Sonny states on the DVD that he started on the stage of the Ryman with Bill Monroe, and unless something changed drastically, he would be ending his performances there,” she says proudly.

Vincent gave all of her creative spirit to make sure the project was finished. After all, it could very well go down as one of the most-important performances in bluegrass history. “It was very important to me that I got it completed. I wanted each of them to see this so I could get their approval. One by one, I was able to get them to watch it, and do that.”

What continues to amaze Vincent -- as Sonny Osborne is the junior member of the group at age 80 -- is how each artist still marked by a creative yen. “That’s what I love about all of these guys. They are still creating music. They could simply retire and do something else, but they have the passion and the love for the music. They want to create as much as they can. It’s so much a part of their life.”

She says that she enjoys a long history with McReynolds. “Jim and Jesse have been such a big part of my family, the Sally Mountain Show. We built our first bus from them and did shows with them.  They were probably the first friendships of this set of people. They were always so kind to us. I saw Mac at the various festivals but really didn’t know him that well. But, now with this project, I’ve been to his house, and it’s awesome to call him and wish him a Happy Birthday – he just turned ninety-three. He’s always so positive, and that voice – you can hear it over the phone. He just makes me smile.  His singing voice translates so well to his speaking voice,” she says of Wiseman, who is known by the moniker “The Voice With A Heart.”

And, then, there’s The Osborne Brothers, who made a deep musical impact on Vincent from an early age. “They were innovators and took such musical risks," she explains. "They did things to jump outside of the realm of bluegrass music. They always had a bit of an intrigue to them -- and they still do. Sonny is very mysterious, and Bobby is as kind as it gets. Their music influenced my family’s music and my music more than any other. We loved The Osborne Brothers – their vocal and instrumental arrangements and everything about them. It’s a special treat for me to get to stand with them and sing.”

All in all, the night stands as one that will live in Vincent’s heart forever. “This was a special event – July 14, 2016 – a day that I will never forget," she raves." It was the experience of a lifetime. It was important to have documentation of this. I think it’s a wonderful representation of merging the generations."

She continues to explain that the event was of particular importance "because my daughter Sally -- who is traveling with us – is getting ready to make her first project. So, I guess you could say this was her debut. I just love the fact that I’m able to carry that forward. For her to be able to say that she’s stood on the stage with all of these legends is very special. It’s something that will likely never be captured again, and I’m so thrilled.”

It might sound like a tough musical mission to pull off, but Vincent says it all came down to one thing: “For me, putting this together was a matter of phone calls. People ask ‘How in the world did you do it?’ I say ‘I just asked.'”

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