Album of the Week #26 – Rhonda Vincent’s All-American Bluegrass Girl

All American Bluegrass Girl - Rhonda VincentThis past Thursday during a Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman show, Rhonda Vincent celebrated her 50th birthday! (Yes, it shocked me too.)

To celebrate the All American Birthday Girl, this Album of the Week will focus on one of Rhonda’s best: All American Bluegrass Girl.

Bill might be from Kentucky,
Jimmy from Tennessee.

Though I might be from Missouri,
I’m as bluegrass as can be.

I love the bluegrass music,
with friends and family.

I’m an All American Bluegrass Girl
and proud as I can be.

The title track has been a signature Rhonda Vincent song ever since it hit airwaves in 2006. It has been so popular, that All American Bluegrass Girl has become one of her most popular monikers. Not only does this song set the theme for this album, but it can easily be viewed as a theme for Rhonda’s entire career.

As she mentions in the liner notes,

“Writing this song became not only the title and tone for this project, but also my autobiographical theme song. It’s as real as bluegrass music!”

From my perspective, a good album can be viewed as a work of art. More than simply a collection of songs, it can be a snapshot of where the artist was at the time of the recording.

One thing I enjoy as much as a good album is the lost art of a good concept album.

Concept albums are typically marked by a clear theme that is evident throughout the entire record, and usually a little deeper than just all-originals or all-Gospel.

Johnny Cash was the king of the concept album. Some of his most memorable are Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, America: A 200-Year Salute in Story and Song, and Johnny Cash Sings Ballads of the True West, just to name a few.

Another popular type is the tribute album. Merle Haggard’s Same Train, A Different Time: A Tribute to Jimmie Rodgers is one of my favorites.

I say that to say this: All American Bluegrass Girl is not a concept album, but it does have elements of the type which set it apart. The most glaring of which is the overall theme/tone to the album.

An overall theme to an album requires a good deal more thought than just stringing together a bunch of good songs. It requires careful selection to find songs that are a good fit with one another, and within the primary theme of the project.

As Rhonda mentioned above,  All American is the established theme here. Two songs in particular express this particularly (along with of the title track): Til They Came Home and God Bless The Soldier.

Til They Came Home is an appreciation for our soldiers who serve overseas. From World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom, most of us have had a loved one who served overseas. As a country, we all shared this song’s sentiment any time our military goes to a foreign land to protect the freedom of us and others.

Rhonda penned God Bless The Soldier following a visit to Fort Hood. A very moving song, this one a fine tribute to all of our country’s service men and women. I would have thought that this one would have been covered by a big name country artist (Martina McBride?). It appeals to the patriot in all of us, and is one of the most reverent service songs I’ve ever heard. If you’re not captivated by this one, you might wanna check your pulse.

All American Bluegrass Girl also features some all-American special guests. It’s harder to find to bigger legends in American music than Dolly Parton and Bobby Osborne, and both duet with Rhonda on this album.

Dolly helps Rhonda on Heartbreaker’s Alibi. These two are great friends, and have appeared on each other’s albums a number of times in the past. The song is catchy, and having two of music’s top female vocalists executing its delivery to perfection, it’s no wonder it was turned into a popular music video. Rhonda and Dolly’s voices blend so well, and Heartbreaker’s Alibi is a fine example of their chemistry.

Bobby joins Rhonda on an old Osborne Brothers song: Midnight Angel. With an additional verse written by Rhonda’s brother, Brian Vincent, this cut of the song has become a modern day classic. Bobby’s voice is so strong – a timeless sound in our music – and paired with Rhonda’s powerhouse vocals, it is a match made in heaven. The popularity of this song spurred other Rhonda/Bobby collaborations on Go Rest High On That Mountain on Osborne’s Bluegrass Melodies CD, and After The Fire Is Gone from his Bluegrass & Beyond album.

Also featured are such great songs as Rhythm of the Wheel, Prettiest Flower There, and Jesus Built A Bridge To Heaven. If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out this modern day classic.

All American Bluegrass Girl is on Rounder Records [ROU-0580] and can be purchased through County Sales and the Classic Country Connection. It can also be downloaded digitally through iTunes or Amazon MP3.

If you haven’t already, make sure you wish the All American Birthday Girl a Happy 50th Birthday on Twitter or Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Rhonda!

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About the Author

Daniel Mullins

Daniel Mullins is an IBMA award-winning journalist and broadcaster from southwestern Ohio, with an American Studies degree from Cedarville University. He hosts the Walls of Time: Bluegrass Podcast and his daily radio program, The Daniel Mullins Midday Music Spectacular, on the Real Roots Radio network. He also serves as the station’s music director, programming country, bluegrass, and Americana music.