Rhonda Vincent,
The Storm Still Rages
(Rounder, 2001)

The Storm Still Rages is a powerful bluegrass/country album from singer Rhonda Vincent. She wrote two of the best songs on the album, with the rest of the thirteen tracks being covers of songs old and new. This is decidedly contemporary bluegrass music, with some unmistakable country elements that remind me of the common roots of both styles.

One of the things I like best about some country songwriting is the wordplay. "Is the Grass Any Bluer," a tribute to the late Bill Monroe, uses this device effectively, as does the lost-love song, "I'm Not Over You." My favorite song here, "Each Season Changes You," is a wry question asked of a fickle man, whose "heart changes with each season." The expert banjo picking here is a wonderful contrast to Vincent's voice.

Vincent's powerful and flexible voice gives the classic "Drivin' Nails In My Coffin" extra passion, and blends beautifully with the virtuoso banjo and fiddle on "Bluegrass Express."

"My Sweet Love Ain't Around" uses the motif of a train whistle to accent the longing of the lyrics, in a wonderfully arranged piece that takes full advantage of the power of the slow fiddle. Even the banjo here is slow and lonely, which is quite a feat for such an energetic instrument.

The only song I didn't care for on this album is the gospel-influenced "You Don't Love God If You Don't Love Your Neighbor." I generally like gospel, despite it not being relevant to my own religious path. This one, though, seemed excessively preachy to me, lecturing rather than celebrating the spirit. The music is more designed to set off lyrics and message, so it doesn't distract from the didactic tone. While I respect the meaning, this wasn't a successful expression of it.

"On Solid Ground" also has a message, but expresses it in a more personal and musically successful way, although it's still a bit didactic.

The liner notes on this CD are rather scanty. Lyrics are missing, although the credits for each individual song are nice and the essay by Craig Havighurst informative.

I loved the bluegrass here, and my husband, a country fan, adored this album as soon as he heard it. I think The Storm Still Rages will be a favorite of fans of both genres, particularly country lovers who like the older styles better then the current, pop-influenced stuff.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 21 October 2001

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