Picks and Pans Review: One Step Ahead

updated 05/19/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/19/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Rhonda Vincent (Rounder)

Rhonda Vincent, 40, was bluegrass before bluegrass was cool. With her Reba McEntire/Patty Loveless twang and the resonant, hearty musicality of Ricky Skaggs, Vincent remains a step ahead of her roots-country competition on her 20th album. The Missouri singer/mandolin player cowrote five of the 12 tracks, including the admirable trucker's song "Ridin' the Red Line," which deftly exploits the inherent rhythm in bluegrass. Vincent turns to outside composers for other standouts such as the pretty, waltzy "Missouri Moon" and the up-tempo, cleverly dismissive "You Can't Take It with You When You Go." Elsewhere she pairs up with fellow bluegrass doyenne Alison Krauss, who supplies guest vocals on the upbeat "One Step Ahead of the Blues." Vincent's strongest support, though, comes from her backup band, which, sparked by fiddler Stuart Duncan and banjo player Ronnie Stewart, plays with uncommon zest and musicianship.

BOTTOM LINE: Get in step with Vincent

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