Rhonda Vincent was born July 13, 1962, in Kirksville, Missouri, where she still lives. Her musical career started in her family’s band as a child. After appearing on the TNN series You Can Be a Star, she was hired to play in Jim Ed Brown’s touring band. (Alison Krauss temporarily replaced her in the Vincent family’s band.) Throughout the 1980s, Vincent accepted numerous female vocalist honors from the Society of the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPGMA).
In the 1990s, Vincent signed to Giant Records in Nashville, hoping for crossover success in the country market. After two albums failed, she chose Rounder Records for a series of critically acclaimed traditional bluegrass albums. Back Home Again arrived in 2000 and The Storm Still Rages in 2001. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awarded her its female vocalist award in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. She also captured the IBMA’s entertainer of the year award in 2001. One Step Ahead, which features many songs she co-wrote as well as a duet with Krauss, was released in 2003.
Destination Life (2009) has a lot of familiar things going for it, but Rhonda Vincent’s powerhouse vocals top the list. From heart-torn start (“Last Time Loving You”) to gospel-charged finale (“When I Travel My Last Mile (He Will Hold My Hand)”), the bluegrass queen is in such commanding and soulful form that even song quality seems a bit irrelevant at times.
Fortunately, there’s not much cause for concern in that regard, either. Vincent has gathered and co-composed songs that are not only worthy of her attention, they underscore her emotional range and interpretive gifts. The mood swings are wider than the song titles suggest: “Last Time Loving You,” one of three original tunes, is more defiant than depressing. Pete Goble’s “I Can Make Him Whisper (I Love You)” concerns obsessive longing, and “What a Woman Wants to Hear,” another Vincent contribution, is a straight-up, honky-tonk valentine. When the music turns spiritual on “I Heard My Savior Calling Me,” bluegrass gospel harmonies fall into perfect place and Vincent’s voice soars.
There’s also no shortage of instrumental sparks. The album features Vincent’s touring band with crackling performances by two recent recruits: guitarist Ben Helson and banjoist Aaron McDaris. They help fuel the kind of spontaneity that’s not easy to create in the studio - another reason to stay tuned.