Josh Williams joins Rhonda and the Rage

With their touring season just concluded, Rhonda Vincent has announced a change in her band, The Rage.

Ben Helson, who has been holding down the guitar spot this past four years, is leaving, with 3-time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year Josh Williams set to step in. Williams had spent 4 years with Vincent previously (2004 – 2007), and appeared on her 2005 live CD and DVD, Ragin’ Live.

Rhonda expressed some mixed feelings about the swap, but was resolute in her decision.

“We love Ben… we love him so much. This was just a change we had to make.

This is a bittersweet time, as I am thrilled at the return of Josh Williams to The Rage. Josh is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard. We are excited to begin a new chapter of The Rage, and mark a historical reunion.”

Ben had worked for several years with Ricky Skaggs before joining the Rage, and serves as Bluegrass Director of the Bethel University Renaissance program in McKenzie, TN.

The Rage’s season is essentially over for 2012, but Josh will make his reunion debut with Rhonda on December 4 at a filming for RFD TV’s Larry’s Country Diner. A broadcast date will be announced soon.

For Josh’s part, the move from bandleader to sideman is all good.

“I’m excited about being back, and looking forward to setting the bluegrass world on its ear with The Rage.

I was proud to do a band on my own this past four years. But it’s a lot of work to do your own thing, something I didn’t recognize when I started the band.

Life’s good these days, and this situation takes a lot of pressure off of me, and gives me an opportunity to earn a good living.”

Williams joins Hunter Berry on fiddle, Aaron McDaris on banjo, Brent Burke on resonator guitar, and Mickey Harris on bass. Vincent fronts the group on mandolin and lead vocals.

Rhonda & the Rage start back up in 2013 with a brief tour on the west coast. Details on their schedule can be found on her web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • Darren Sullivan-Koch

    Very interesting, especially when the word on the street was that Josh was essentially fired from the Rage last time around…which may or may not have been true.

    • Bart

      Whether that’s true or not, and it may be, people can change over time, and i hope josh has done so because the life he was believed to be living is no life for a “Family man”! i believe Rhonda has had this planned for a couple months, knowing that getting Josh to rejoin, and this time, keep his private life just that would not have been too difficult knowing that Josh wasn’t earning enough to support his new family. This is a money deal, pure ad simple! While Ben, being so gifted he never had to work his way up the ladder, only new of the demands of playing with top Notch professionals. Josh, also being very gifted, came on the scene several years before Ben and had mad a name for himself as being one of the best and as such the only available premier Guitar player Rhonda That would Bring her a bigger following as she also gained Josh’s fan base as well. I’m a successful business man and if Money is the most important thing to one in life, this move makes perfect sense. I know they will be a band of great talent, but they already were.
      This is business and something I understand very well. I can’t agree nor disagree with this move because Rhonda’s motive is what would decide that. I can only say that, based on my business model, why change something that isn’t broken? I know for fact, Ben was liked and Did his Job, all that was asked of him without question. I also know, and I think that most would have to agree, he held down the Guitar spot, actually incrementally increasing the level of musicianship over the past 4years (that’s not a statement that says he’s a better musician than Josh)! Now, Typical of Rhonda’sStyle, Ben’s out and Josh (who by-the-way is friends with Ben and I would say there’s absolutely no animosity between them whatsoever) is back in. I would expect him to do the same in the spot he’s in as I just mentioned Ben Doing. I know them both, they’re both EXCELLENT musicians and I know Ben wishes Josh the Best as Josh does for Ben.
      Rhonda will always be Rhonda—Always trying to please her fans while being one of the best marketing musicians in the business today and also a voice that’s very special.
      With all that’s taken place over the past month in the RV&R Machine, there’s one thing you must all believe…ALL INVOLVED WILL BE BETTER OFF BECAUSE THIS MOVE WAS MADE (does not take into account any residual for people directly affected but who are not involved in the change over…Josh’s old band members). I wish everyone the best and Merry Christmas!

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  • Lynwood Lunsford

    As I’ve been lamenting on other Bluegrass chat sites, there are just simply too many bands these days, for the number of decent paying gigs. Josh Williams Band is another victim of this trend. And like many others, Josh is an exceptional picker and singer, but was never able to retain personnel that matched up to his caliber of musicianship. I predict there will be others to follow.

    Best of luck to Josh…..and to Ben……as they undertake their next endeavors!

    • Exactly why we all have to stick together and demand a half decent pay for a gig to stay alive!!!

  • Chris Hill

    I don’t think folks should post “word on the street” rumblings if they know don’t know if it’s true. If anyone has seen one of Josh’s shows lately, they would know that he admits making some mistakes in his life, he realizes that and that he has also turned his life around. If God can forgive the man and any other person for that matter, I know I can do the same.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      I am hardly the first to do so. Part of the great thing about BluegrassToday is that it gives us fans—and the musicians, presenters, and labels that bring us bluegrass—an opportunity to dispel or confirm such rumblings. For instance, I am glad to hear that Josh has set his life right…I didn’t know that. Good for him!

  • grasser

    So, are “exceptional” pickers like Josh, and yes, he is indeed exceptional, supposed to stay sidemen all their careers? From what I had seen on YouTube, Josh had a great band and they had also won Emerging Artist of the Year award from the IBMA and was in the process of finishing a CD that was produced by the great banjo man, J.D. Crowe.

    I wish Josh all the good fortune that will come his way but to imply that his other band members weren’t up to the task is a little much.

    • Lynwood Lunsford

      Well grasser, I wasn’t implying that the other members of Josh’s band weren’t good….but they certainly have not reached the level that Josh has.

      You pointed out the success that the band enjoyed in the last 4 years. But doesn’t it make you wonder why such a good band, with seemingly so much going for it, can’t survive? I don’t think it is because of Josh……I still believe it’s a product of too many bands for too few gigs. For the promoter, it’s a buyers market and they can get very good groups, for very little money. And no matter how good your business model is, you simply can’t continually play for little or no money.

      Today’s bands have to travel further for less money than ever before, just to get shows to play. That is why I predict more disbanding and consolidating in the future. And maybe that is not a totally bad thing!

      • grasser

        I don’t know if I buy the “too many bands” theory. There have ALWAYS been many bluegrass bands. Seem like the ones that work to stay on top, do just that. Stay on top. I think it’s the idea of just six or seven bands that ARE on top and that is all the promoters want to book. I’m kind of getting tired of them myself but, I don’t put the beans on their tables either.

  • Tom Feller

    I agree Chris. People must realize sometimes business decisions are made out of necessity for the business to survive. It’s not always personal. Because of the success that Rhonda’s enjoyed, it should be clear by now to everyone that there’s a good reason behind that. She has a great business model and part of that involves change, from time to time. Rhonda and Josh are two of my favorite people in this business and they deserve the success they’ve both worked hard to acheive. Ben is a great talent and the opportunity he experienced with Rhonda will help lead him to something great, in the future. I look at every opportunity I’ve experienced in a positive light and leave the negativity with those sitting on the sidelines.

  • skeeter

    Just heard Ronda Vincent and Rage on Prairie Home Companion, with Josh Williams. I hope the band is giving Josh some opportunities to sing solos; he has a great voice. Admire his high baritone voice a lot. His version of Lonesome Road, for one, is really outstanding! He’s got great “chuff” when he starts to sing a phrase — just like a fiddle digging in.