Rhonda Vincent – Destination Life

Rhonda Vincent - Destination LifeRhonda Vincent’s new CD, Destination Life, is due out on Rounder on June 16. Radio promos were mailed last week, so you may be hearing more tracks from the album already, in addition to the single, Heart Wrenching Love Sick Memories, which was released in January.

This is a fine record, notable both for the quality of the music, and for the fact that it breaks from the format we had come to expect in new Rhonda Vincent projects.

Once an artist becomes established and successful, the temptation to slide into a formula can be quite powerful. Fans – and often record labels –  have expectations based on recent prior releases, and for busy, over-scheduled artists the simple path is often to “do the last record again.”

On Destination Life, Rhonda recorded all the tracks with her new touring band, The Rage, something she had done only sparingly on previous albums. In fact, she has made much of the fact that she chose her newest lineup specifically with this concept in mind.

In addition to long-time members Hunter Berry on fiddle and Mickey Harris on bass, The Rage now includes Araon McDaris on banjo and Ben Helson on guitar. Rhonda told us in a recent interview that she took advantage of the artistic intensity of a new lineup to help shape the sound of the new CD.

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, 2009 edition - Aaron McDaris, Mickey Harris, Rhonda Vincent, Ben Helson, Hunter Berry“Instead of having a first band meeting to rehearse standard Rage songs, when Aaron and Ben called me to ask what songs they should work on, I told them not to work on anything…  to show up with a blank sheet of paper, that we were going to create new music and share our ideas to record the very first Rhonda & The Rage project as a complete joint effort.

We met for the first time in the studio, tossing around ideas, and trying the various combinations of voices and instruments.

Destination Life is the end result.”

Another departure from her recent recordings is the fact that this new project is not as focused on songs Rhonda has written, though she does have a couple of co-writes in the credits. Singer-songwriter albums have a long history of success in popular music, but talented as Ms. Vincent may be in that regard, it is as a singer and an interpreter of songs on which her legacy will be built.

For Destination Life, she has chosen eleven fine songs that suit her voice perfectly, mostly recorded here for the first time, and a classic instrumental. Rhonda sent along a set of personal reflections on the songs for readers of Bluegrass Today, which we include here along with a couple of audio samples.

Last Time Loving You  –  Listen now:    [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/last_time.mp3]

I discovered this song from Alice Zincone in North Carolina, and Rick LaFluer. They allowed me to participate long distance, to collaborate via email in writing this version of the song. It’s become a new opener for our live shows; and a perfect showcase for Aaron’s incredible banjo work.

I Can Make Him Whisper I Love You  –  Listen now:    [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/whisper.mp3]

Pete Goble sang this song to me, as he was passing by in a van, at the Charlotte, Michigan bluegrass festival.  He so eloquently whispered the lyrics. I was instantly intrigued by the song.  And thrilled that a year later; the song was still available.

Aaron joined in the harmonies, during the session; as we tested the song. His voice added a smooth silky texture to the trio.

Destination Life

I posted on my message board at www.rhondavincent.com and asked for song suggestions for the new project. This song was sent by Don McLean all the way from New Zealand.  It was written and recorded by New Zealand artist Donna Dean. This is the first US recording and release of the song. I thought it was a perfect title to begin the new year with all our changes and a new destination.

Heart Wrenching Lovesick Memories

This song was sent by a recording engineer. It was a song from a new session; and the writer ask if he would pass it along. I’m sure glad he did. It’s written by Tonya Lowman; and became the first single from this new project. We received a call, asking if I was singing all the harmonies on this cut. I was amused by this, especially since there are no guests, or double takes; since it is solely The Rage. The harmonies were sung by Ben Helson and Aaron McDaris.

Crazy What A Lonely Heart Will Do – duet with Ben Helson

I was first pitched this song when I recorded for Giant Records, sometime in the early 90’s. I try to keep copies of any song that I like, even if it may not fit the current project; this song came to mind when Ben Helson joined The Rage. I’d always loved the song, but it just never seemed to fit. This time, it was perfect.

I played it for Ben, then ask him to sing a bit of it.  He said, ‘I don’t know it.’ I ask him to sing it anyway. My goal was to hear our voices together, just to know if there was a blend, and if the song could work for us. He may not have known why, but he humored me. Our voices did blend; and it was also a perfect song for Mickey to add a WEBER resophonic guitar. Another new addition to The Rage.

Anywhere Is Home When You’re With Me

As I reminisce about this project, I find I’ve been thinking of most of theses songs for quite sometime. This is yet another that I had heard a year or more ago; and kept for the right project.

I’ve become friends and fans of Jo Ellen and George Doering. I love their writing style; along with their unique brand of bluegrass. This is a fun song to perform; and offers an added challenge of changing up cities, stages, and friends each night.  Plus, it’s the perfect sentiment to our fans and family.

We’ll post the rest of Rhonda’s track notes – and a couple more audio samples – on Monday next week.

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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.