Rhonda Vincent remembers when the line between bluegrass and country music wasn’t that distinct, and she didn’t mind being on both sides of it. As her individual bluegrass career was starting to skyrocket around 2000, she went to Nashville, Tennessee, to explore the country side of the divide.
What she found was more glitter than gold.
“The first thing they did was take me to a stylist — she tried 100 shades of blush on my cheek,” Vincent said. “I had never been in this world.”
The bluegrass world, however, is definitely her comfort zone. And it shows.
A winner of the genre’s top annual awards for nearly two decades, Vincent and her band, The Rage, will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Manship Theatre. It’s her first time in Baton Rouge in almost a decade.
Performing bluegrass on stage is where Vincent, 53, has spent almost her entire life. She is the fifth generation of Vincent musicians, and she was part of her parents’ band, The Sally Mountain Show, since she was 5. She plays the violin, guitar and mandolin.
But it’s her singing that made her a star.
The Missouri native has been the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the year eight times, including 2015. She and her band have been the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America’s entertainer, female vocalist, instrumental group or bluegrass band of the year — or a combination of those — every year since 2010.
Vincent still performs more traditional country music on “Country’s Family Reunion at Larry’s Country Diner,” which is broadcast on RFD-TV. But bluegrass has an authenticity similar to that of blues and jazz, she said, while modern country music has strayed from its roots.
“You can go into a studio and create anything you want, now,” she said. “You can alter someone’s voice. The real question is: Can you step on the stage of the Opry without any enhancements? What does your voice sound like? That is the true test. Or can you stand right in front of me without the mic? What does your voice sound like? Is it something created in a studio, something synthetic? Or is there an authenticity, right down to the instruments?”
The Rage features Hunter Berry on fiddle, Brent Burke on the dobro, Mickey Harris on bass, Aaron McDaris on banjo and Josh Williams on guitar. And, of course, Vincent has been known to pick up an instrument or two herself.
She claims no regrets that she didn’t ride country music’s wave of popularity. She took what she learned — including the right shade of blush — and has brought it to the world she has known ever since she started playing with her family very day after school.
“I feel fortunate that I get to play the music that I love,” she said. “I produce my own music. Everything’s in house. ... I have a career that I’m so thankful for.”