Family Banding

Rhonda Vincent hosts the season premiere of MCR for the benefit of the Nature Conservancy

Sure, you must think we’re stretching and yawning, waking up from our two-week “vacation” as we prepare to return to the Loveless Cafe Barn for the new season of Music City Roots, but nothing could be further from the truth. A lot’s been shaking here behind the scenes, and we’ve just made a big announcement to prove it: As of our Oct. 20 show, which happens to be OUR FIRST ANNIVERSARY, Music City Roots is moving to a new broadcast home, Lightning 100, WRLT at 100.1 on your FM dial. It’s a big change, but one we think will be great for getting the word out about the show, reaching new audiences and having a great stereo FM signal in our home market. Lightning 100 has a long tradition of playing progressive music in Music City, and even though we’re a 1930s style radio show, and even though we have immense reverence for the past, we’ve long known that if we weren’t out on the edge with our music, nothing else would matter. So we can’t wait to see how many new friends we make on WRLT.

When you tune in next Wednesday (assuming you just CAN’T make it in person to the Barn), you’ll hear a show specially curated by bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent and dedicated to our friends and sponsors at the Nature Conservancy. For this special night, Vincent has hand-picked some up and coming family bands to round out the bill, some from around her home base in Missouri and one from very close to her actual home, as we’ll see. All have in common a prodigious youthfulness that harkens back to the origins of Vincent’s own career.

Rhonda was born into a quintessential musical family. From the time she made her stage debut at age five, there was little doubt about her path. Her debut solo recording came in 1986 and after getting that a close to her bluegrass roots, she took a productive and interesting foray into mainstream country music with a couple of releases for Giant Records. It was clear she had a magisterial voice, and ultimately bluegrass proved its best home. Rounder Records signed her in 1999, and that really became the launch pad for one of the most decorated careers in the business. I wrote a Wall Street Journal article about her after the first or second of those albums came out in which I called her the “new queen of traditional bluegrass” and she’s still using that phrase. Happily I can look back on that and still claim it, because while Alison Krauss has been a torch bearer for progressive acoustic music with bluegrass roots, Vincent has truly kept her center in the traditional sound. And she earned an incredible seven IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards to bolster her regal title.

When Rhonda and her band The Rage come join us at the Barn, they will be hot off of the release of their new album Taken, the first on Vincent’s own label. And as part of this CD release celebration, some of the guest artists from the disc will be performing sets of their own. Like for instance Vincent’s daughters Sally and Tensel, who perform as Next Best Thing. They weren’t as certain about a music career as their mom but got the fever while studying music at East Tennessee State University’s acclaimed bluegrass program. They make up part of the incredible sixth generation of musical Vincents.

Also on the bill, the very young Rhonda Vincent protégé Isaac Moore, an 8-year old who’s said to be an amazing singer, plus two pure family bands in the classic tradition. The Harpers focus on bluegrass gospel and have a fiddling ten year old daughter in the band. And the Huntley Sisters are veterans of Silver Dollar City, Branson and that whole Midwestern bluegrass/country scene. It’s going to be a pretty old-school lineup for our first night on Lightning 100, but hopefully the hipsters will hang on and give it a try.

Craig H.

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