Although Missouri-born Rhonda Vincent has been a showbiz professional for nearly four decades–she joined her family’s bluegrass act, the Sally Mountain Show, at the age of five and became its drummer at six–she feels she’s only come into her own as an artist in the last five years or so. “I came to a crossroads, and that’s when I put my first real band together,” the singer and multi-instrumentalist has said. “Before that, I really wasn’t in charge of the music that I was playing.” She’s implicitly referring not to the Sally Mountain days (when, presumably, she wasn’t always in charge of her bedtime either) but the period during the 90s when she wandered away from bluegrass to chase mainstream Nashville stardom. Vincent’s forays into country pop were actually highly palatable, if perhaps a bit too tasteful to get her to the top of the charts in the Age of Shania. Anyway, Clear Channel’s loss has proven to be high lonesome’s gain. In 1999 Vincent convened her own porchful of serious string-band players and started making superb, hard-driving traditionalist albums for Rounder: Back Home Again (2000), The Storm Still Rages (2001), and One Step Ahead (2003). As her own producer, Vincent knows just how to showcase her light, muscular soprano, an instrument clearly intended by nature for the music she’s come back to. But as good as the records are, she and her group, the Rage, have to be appreciated live; besides the godlike Del McCoury Band, they were the best part of the Chicago stop on the excellent Down From the Mountain tour a couple of years ago. The Cherryholmes family bluegrass band opens; the early show is sold-out. Sunday, March 7, 4 and 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000. Vincent also plays a free in-store Monday, March 8, 12:30 PM, Borders Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan; 312-573-0564.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Schlegel.