Saying All the Right Things

One Step Ahead (Rounder Records)
Rhonda Vincent

by Bob Mitchell

At first glance I thought I had the soundtrack for "Matrix Reloaded." The cover photo shows a commanding figure in black dominating a blurred abstract street. Closer examination revealed a confident woman with her weapon of choice, the mandolin.

After the first listening, I found myself repeating the words of her "Martha White Song," specifically, "Goodness Gracious!" That's what you will say after you hear this three-time female vocalist of the year unleash another exuberant recording. And, you won't be alone in your praise.

One of the most impressive press kits to cross my desk contained accolades from USA Today, The Boston Globe, The New York Post, The Dallas Morning Star, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Detroit Free Press, The Chicago Sun Times and numerous other publications. According to Billboard's Top 10 Bluegrass Survey, One Step Ahead made its debut at No. 2 in the country. Not bad!

Vincent turns on the jets with her opening track, "Kentucky Borderline" co-written with Terry Herd, Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year in 2002. In fact, Vincent and Herd combine their songwriting talents on four other tunes including an outstanding pseudo-title track, "One Step Ahead of The Blues," the poignant "Caught in the Crossfire," (a child's view of his parent's failing marriage) and "Riding the Red Line" (a trucker's homecoming anthem).

This project, like her previous two releases, is an exciting showcase for some of the finest musicians in the business. Bryon Sutton's guitar work is an exhibition of staggering technique especially in "Caught in the Crossfire." Ronnie Stewart continues to astonish us with impeccable banjo and fiddle styling. His breaks and fills leave no doubt that he is in top form especially on "Riding the Red Line." Luke Bella also provides fine fiddle work on a new cover for the Webb Pierce classic "Pathway of Teardrops."

There is also a fantastic cover for Melba Montgomery's "An Old Memory Found Its Way Back" with exceptional backup from Aubrey Haynie on mandolin and Stuart Duncan on fiddle. One of the highlights is "Frankie Bell," a fast moving original instrumental written by and featuring 11-year-old fiddle sensation Molly Cherryholmes. On a five-point scale of excellence, this project is a five.