Even if you get to see your favorite band multiple times a year, it’s still a treat when they release a live album. If done right, live albums capture bands at the top of their game. They’re filled with hits, fan favorites, and perhaps a new track or two, and they showcase all the best elements of the group – their crystal-clear harmonies, instrumental wizardry, or the like. The new live album from Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, All the Rage, Volume One, checks off each of those boxes.
Recorded at Bethel University in McKenzie, TN, All the Rage includes fourteen tracks that not only highlight Vincent’s powerhouse vocals, but also allow each member of her band to step out in front for a song or two. From the energetic drive of opening track Muleskinner Blues to the reverential tones of The Old Rugged Cross, the group keeps both the live audience and CD listeners thoroughly engaged throughout the concert.
Muleskinner Blues is an excellent opening choice. Fueled by Aaron McDaris’s powerful banjo and Mickey Harris’s forceful bass playing, the song kicks things off with plenty of momentum. It’s followed by well-written tribute song Is the Grass Any Bluer (On the Other Side), which Vincent sings with plenty of feeling – even brand-new listeners would be well-aware of her respect for the Father of Bluegrass. Other hits from the band’s repertoire include Kentucky Borderline, written by Vincent and Bluegrass Today’s own Terry Herd, and rendered here with ample vigor, and You Don’t Love God (If You Don’t Your Neighbor), with its fine Scruggs-style guitar and earnest vocals.
Much like the band’s regular live shows, this concert features the members of the Rage performing their own fan favorites. Guitar player Josh Williams is featured on Freeborn Man, which has been one of his signature songs for years. Fans of his picking will enjoy the guitar acrobatics at the beginning of the number. Hunter Berry’s fiddling here is also of note. Berry himself is spotlighted on Wow Baby, a fiddle tune he composed several years back. It’s a fiery tune with a frenetic pace that has the audience cheering throughout. Another instrumental comes courtesy of McDaris. The rollicking All About the Banjo maintains the style of much of the rest of the album – high-energy and full of drive. Brent Burke, who has a clear, country-style voice and is no slouch on the resophonic guitar, either, takes the mic for a fine version of Girl from West Virginia, while bass player Mickey Harris sings his own Gospel composition, the classic-sounding If We Would Just Pray. Harris’s playing is solid as a rock throughout the album, and on this song, he reminds listeners that he’s a strong vocalist, as well.
Other highlights here include two excellent lost love numbers, Missouri Moon and I’ve Forgotten You. In contrast to most of the album, these two songs are slower, with more subdued instrumentation and an acoustic country feel. Vincent can belt it with the best of them, but she’s also skilled at wistful heartbreak numbers like these. Missouri Moon is a more straightforward break-up song – “Who would ever thought we’d end this way, as I watch you go the tears are rolling down my face” – while I’ve Forgotten You approaches the theme with a twist. “I’ve been hanging out with Elvis, and all my bills are paid, and they’re giving away Cadillacs for free. The whole world gets along,” Vincent sings, “And I haven’t thought about you once since you’ve been gone.”
All the Rage – Volume One is a very satisfying album that truly captures the musical spirit of Rhonda Vincent & the Rage. Fans of the band will enjoy the live experience coming through their speakers at home (though it is minus much of the stage patter you’d likely hear at an in-person concert), and for those who prefer the visuals of a concert, there’s also a DVD version of the album. Vincent plans to release the rest of the performance, at which they recorded nearly thirty tracks, as a second volume CD/DVD set at some point in the near future.
All the Rage – Volume One is available now from a variety of music retailers. For more information on Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, visit their website at www.rhondavincent.com.