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The Grammy-nominated and multi award-winning 'Queen of Bluegrass' will perform at Galax's annual music festival in Felts Park this weekend.
By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
Some realize their passion for art or music later in life. Others are practically born into it.
This is the case for Rhonda Vincent, a Grammy-nominated and multi award-winning bluegrass and gospel artist.
This year, she will perform live with her band, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, at the HoustonFest: A Celebration of Song and Service in Galax on May 3 and 4.
Vincent grew up in Greentop, Mo., and has performed music ever since she can remember. “I grew up in a musical family that spans five generations. It was a way of life for me,” she told The Gazette.
Her family had a local TV and radio show, and she began recording music when she was only five years old. Her family’s band included herself, her mother and father, her grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends. “Since it wasn’t just family with us, we called ourselves the “Sally Mountain Show.”
Over the years, the band dissolved, leaving a trio consisting of Vincent, her mother and her father: The Sally Mountain Trio. “Then after my brothers came along, I traveled the world singing with my family,” she said.
The musical profession was a natural thing for her, so she continued to climb the bluegrass charts as she got older. Her band, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, has earned more than 80 awards throughout the years, including Song of the Year, Entertainer of the Year and Vocalist of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
They have performed on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, and her "Ragin Live" DVD was programmed on every PBS station across the U.S.
The band has been reviewed by the media titans such as People, USA Today, the Boston Globe, Washington Post and the New York Times. Vincent was once referred to by the Wall Street Journal as “The Queen of Bluegrass.”
Every step of her career so far, she says, has been everything she dreamed it would be. “I feel like I get to live my dream each day,” she said.
She admits that living a nomadic lifestyle can be a shock to the system sometimes. “I’ve woken up before and asked people, ‘What day is it?’ and ‘Where are we?’” she laughed. A seasoned traveler, she has performed in places all over the United States, as well as England, Tanzania, Italy, Sicily, France, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Finland and more.
Along with her vocals, Vincent brings several instrumental talents to the stage. “I prefer any string instrument... on stage, I like to play anything from a mandolin to a fiddle or a guitar,” she said.
The rest of the band is the same way, and they incorporate their multiple talents at their shows by switching out instruments throughout the performance — sometimes right in the middle of the song. “That’s what so fun about these guys,” she said. “We don’t use a set list either, so we never really know what’s going to happen next.”
Die-hard fans of the group follow them on tours just to see what they will do next. One man has possibly broken a record, Vincent says. He walked up to her after a performance and announced that this was the 256th show of theirs he’d seen.
When asked about her influences, Vincent noted that she and her family didn’t just perform bluegrass; they played a little of everything. Last year, she put out her first-ever gospel album, "Sunday Mornin’ Singin."
Her influences, besides her family, include The Osbourne Brothers and Dolly Parton.
Thanks to her success, Vincent has had the opportunity to perform with Parton multiple times, and now considers her a good friend.
She remembered back in 2005, when she came down with a serious case of food poisoning that put her in the hospital. “When I came home, Dolly was standing in my livingroom,” Vincent said. “Dolly said, ‘I had to come and make sure you were okay myself.’ She is the kindest person, very down to earth.. just amazing.”
Another inspiration to her, she says, was Houston Caldwell, the young banjo prodigy who died in a motorcycle accident, and inspiration for Galax’s annual HoustonFest. “This is my first performance at HoustonFest, but I remember Houston... I remember his passion for playing. He was so excited about the music,” she said.
Having performed in Galax before, Vincent is excited to return to the scene to see some familiar — and new — faces. “It’s fun to perform in front of people who have never seen us before. We try to make our shows a personal experience — it’s not just a concert to us.”
After the set, the band will be available for autographs and photos. “We also want to encourage people to share their photos from the event with us on Facebook,” she said.
OTHER FEATURED ARTISTS
Blue Highway — At the 17-year mark, Blue Highway is said to be one of the most esteemed and influential groups in contemporary bluegrass. The band includes Jason Burleson on banjo, guitar, mandolin; Rob Ickes on dobro; Shawn Lane on mandolin, fiddle, and vocals; Tim Stafford on guitar and vocals; and Wayne Taylor on bass and vocals. The band’s nine albums and live performances have earned them stellar reviews, Grammy nominations, and numerous awards since they first took the stage on December 31, 1994. In Stafford’s words, they are “a democracy in the best sense of the word” — five gifted artists merging their talents into a seamlessly brilliant sound.
Sierra Hull — Age, genre or otherwise doesn’t hamper an artist like Sierra. She’s already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, including nominations from the IBMA’s voting members for at least five awards over the past three years. A player, a singer and a songwriter, she is known for her impressive range, the ability to win over ears unfamiliar with Bill Monroe and give performances of broad cultural importance, as she’s done at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the National Prayer Breakfast. Matt Glaser, head of Berklee’s American Roots Music Program, said that Sierra "has no limitations as a musician."
The Boxcars — The Boxcars are known for their unique sound, and their ability to capture and modernize the excitement of the seminal bands that preceded them. “The result is magical. You can’t replace chemistry between band members. And these guys have it,” said a news release. The band is made up of Adam Steffey, Ron Stewart, John R. Bowman, Keith Garrett and Harold Nixon.
Gene Watson — Last year marked the Golden Anniversary of one of the greatest living country vocalists. In 1962, Gene Watson began his professional career by recording his first single. Gene has re-recorded his classic hits on a 25-song collection titled “The Best of the Best.” It is said that his voice sounds exactly like it did when he recorded these songs in the 1970s and 1980s. “Seems like my career just kind of happened accidentally,” said Gene. “It was purely unintentional. Music was just a sideline. I was going to be playing and singing no matter what line of work I was going to do. I never did really have any high expectations out of the music business.”
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out — While many bands have come and gone since May 1991, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out have managed to endure. During their musical career, they have climbed to the top not just once, but twice — winning several IBMA vocal awards, including two Male Vocalist of the Year honors, in the mid- and late 1990s, then persevering through rough times to see Moore recapture the Male Vocalist trophy for the past three years. Along the way, they’ve made a new generation of fans with their release of "Timeless Hits from the Past."
Lonesome River Band — The Lonesome River Band just celebrated its 30th anniversary with three 2012 album releases "Chronology," volumes one through three. The band continues its reputation today as one of the most respected names in bluegrass music. Long-time band member, Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame and multi-award winning banjo picker, Sammy Shelor (banjo and harmony vocals) has put together a wealth of talent, including: Brandon Rickman on lead and harmony vocals and guitar; Mike Hartgrove on the fiddle; Barry Reed on bass and harmony vocals, and Randy Jones with on mandolin, lead and harmony vocals, all performing the distinctive LRB sound that fans love.
• Advance tickets to HoustonFest are available at $15 per day, with children 12 and younger admitted at no charge, or $25 for a two-day ticket. For more information or to order tickets, call 276-236-9908, email HoustonFestGalax@embarqmail.com or visit www.HoustonFestGalax.com.