rhonda vincent only meRhonda Vincent decided to make it easy on all her fans by releasing a Double EP package entitled Only Me available on Upper Management Music toward the end of January with one disc of Bluegrass and another Country separated like The Hatfields and McCoys in different pews in the same church on a Sunday morning with more in common than they want to lay claim on.

Rhonda’s voice is strong and clear throughout the two discs that not only separates genres, but were recorded also with two different lineups showing contrast between fiddlers Hunter Berry on the acoustic filled Bluegrass set and Tim Crouch on the Trad – Country with a twist of the best of Texas approach to disc two.

Willie Nelson shares vocal duties as well as trading licks on the break with his old Martin on the title track, “Only Me” well into the middle of the Bluegrass CD.

photo courtesy Webster PR

photo courtesy Webster PR

Rhonda shows her ability to take different approaches on different songs with some strong George Jones meets Patsy Cline torch meter over the slow rockin’ “I Need Somebody Bad Tonight” which could have easily fit on the Country side with a little more bass, drums and some steel guitar.

The second duet comes after with Daryle Singletary and Rhonda on “We Must Have Been out Of Our Minds” again showing that Bluegrass and Country are just a stones’ throw apart with more than enough Blues and Country on the Bluegrass side of the fence.

photo courtesy Webster PR

photo courtesy Webster PR

While the Bluegrass disc does not disappoint, the Country disc seems to be the stronger cousin of the two with an all-star lineup that also features a prominent Mike Johnson on steel guitar sharing space with Catherine Marx and Michael Rojas on piano giving a nice bed for fiddler Tim Crouch and Mike Johnson to spar over. The Country disc is all about fiddle and steel.

This is definitely not AC/DC or Fleetwood Mac inspired Country that instead has a feel of an RCA Studio B Session of maybe the mid 60’s or early 70’s underscore going on. Fans of traditional Country are the big winners here especially on track two, “Once A Day” with a driving Buck Owens country rockin’ swing that features Gospel Quartet inspired back-up vocals supporting Rhonda on what would be the radio track on this set.

There is plenty of weeping steel guitar and strong vocals on “Teardrops Over You” and “Beneath Still Waters” that would fill up quarters in a jukebox alongside “Behind Closed Doors” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and reminds one how cool brown naugahyde and low amber lights are with a glowing Seeburg jukebox by the back door that keeps playing music until morning comes.

The biggest jam takes place on the Bob Wills Texas Swing Honky Tonk flavored “Bright Lights & Country Music” with a lead- in fiddle fill sojourning into some jazzy guitar licks by James Mitchell before  the fiddle and steel shiver some notes together. A whole CD could have been built around this song.

Rhonda slows it down on “When The Grass Grows Over Me” before throwing on some more Bob Wills inspired fiddle and jazz guitar licks while Rhonda takes off with “I’m just drivin’ nails in my coffin, drivin’ those nails over you.”

This collection could have been divided by “ready-to-cut-a-rug” dance tunes and then a CD of tear jerkers which would have worked as a disc to wake up to in the morning or for dancin’ boots down at Robert’s and another for when the lights are low and the feel of melancholy has set in.

photo courtesy Webster PR

photo courtesy Webster PR

Rhonda proves that she didn’t have to decide on one or the other genre as her voice soars and ebbs and flows through brilliant dynamics but the backing band on the Country CD leaves one wanting more Time Jumpers style outings. One can only hope that when it comes time to cut it up live they get the chance.

The strongest cuts prove to be the jam filled “Once A Day,” “Bright Lights & Country Music” and “Drivin’ Nails” where Rhonda just cuts loose with a hot band.

Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom

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