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After wandering off into country, Rhonda Vincent is back on the bluegrass scene.

Coming Home

When Rhonda Vincent returned to bluegrass music in 2000 after a short foray into Nashville country, she was determined to make her mark.

She has. The gifted singer and her band recently garnered seven International Bluegrass Award nominations that include best song and best female vocalist, and her second solo recording is a critical success.

"There are no days off," Vincent says by telephone from a publicist's Nashville office. "To come together as a group... it's been a phenomenal year."

All of this recent success follows a "five- or six-year" country music experiment that didn't work. Vincent says that experience left her more focused and attuned to her bluegrass soul.

Returning to the music of her youth, Vincent quickly honed a traditional style that features plenty of keening, Osborne Brothers-style harmonies, fancy fiddling and driving rhythm that bursts with contemporary freshness.

She says she doesn't limit her song selection, and someday she might record a re-arranged rock song like the ones regularly performed by the Seldom Scene and Del McCoury. But she's firm about keeping the performance rooted in straightforward pickin' and singin' — and that means no drums and no amps on stage.

"Hopefully you keep progressing," the mother of two says. "I'm not locked into any one style but I feel my perimeters are defined."

Vincent has learned her no-nonsense work ethic from her dad at an early age when they played music every night in their Missouri home and on stage in the family band, the Sally Mountain Show. Throughout her childhood, Vincent performed on television, radio and on the road with the group.

"You were expected to play," she says simply.

But rather than jump the bluegrass ship when she got older, Vincent embraced the music. She even attended high school and two years of college while keeping a full-time performing schedule with the Show.

"Don't try that at home," she jokes.

She stayed with the Sally Mountain group through the early '90s, taking time off in the late '80s to record three solo albums that mixed country and bluegrass. During the recording of these projects, Vincent met Nashville producer James Stroud. When Stroud became a major country-music label head, he signed Vincent as his first act. A couple of recordings later, Vincent stopped trying to fit others' musical expectations.

Country lessons learned, she has grabbed the bluegrass world's attention with last year's "Back Home Again" and the recently released "The Storm Still Rages." Vincent also tours rigorously in the United States, Canada and Europe. She recently played for 12,000 in Cambridge, England, and she sees plenty more of the same down the line. Vincent says her musical goal is well-defined.

"In every aspect I want to present authentic, straight-ahead bluegrass music using my heart and my gut to

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