Recorded live at her childhood church, Greentop Methodist in Greentop, Mo., award-winning bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent gathers her band the Rage for a 16-song set of Southern Gospel. Sunday Mornin’ Singin,’ released in July and available now, features a mix of traditional and freshly-penned material nestled deep in the heart of Christian and bluegrass music.
Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ is Rhonda’s first wholly-Southern Gospel project. Throughout the entire collection, songs and messages resonate with a feeling of personal witness. On “The Last Best Place,” a beautifully-paced ballad about preparing for the hereafter and highlighted by twin fiddle, Rhonda’s voice flows gently over a soft guitar arpeggio. I will sing by His grace in the last best place, she reveals tenderly through subtle vocal nuances.
Supported by the pure tones of an entirely acoustic group, Rhonda continually showcases what has made her the recipient of multiple IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards. Her delicate voice ventures out alone in “Fishers Of Men” before the rest of the band joins in to display complex harmonies through the wonderful rising and falling arrangement. The toe-tappin’ “Joshua,” marked by lightning-quick banjo and fiddle, builds on expressive vocals as Rhonda calls out, And the walls came tumblin’ down, before her band repeats in successive harmony. Rhonda even gets a little bluesy as her timbre changes slightly on the ¾-time “Homecoming.” There will be a homecoming some morning when Jesus calls us away, she sings over acoustic guitars. On multiple occasions the song feels as if it will stop before rising again into a strong new chorus.
Songs like the a cappella gem “His Promised Land” (co-written by Rhonda with Lisa Shaffer) and the bouncing “Where We’ll Never Say Farewell” offer traditional takes on the Kingdom of Heaven. However, other songs on the project explore the kingdom that is around us everyday. The poignant “Blue Sky Cathedral” uses natural beauty, including such nice reflections as sunrises acting as stained glass windows, to describe an earthly place of worship. My granddaddy never went to church, she sings of her devout grandfather before adding, He felt closer to God with his hands in the dirt. “Silent Partner” touches on God’s daily presence through the warm metaphor of a loyal associate there to help at every turn.
While Rhonda plays mandolin and fiddle on the record, her band the Rage provides a tight musical backdrop of guitar, dobro, bass and banjo, as well as mandolin and fiddle, to fill out the sound. The musical intonation is pristine as songs including “Help Me To Be More Like Him” and “Just As I Am” feature fluid solos. On “God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds,” fiddle/mandolin player Hunter Berry takes lead vocals, at one point dropping into his lowest gear, as the song takes on joyous praise.
There’s an energy on Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ ringing from the opening chords of “I Feel Closer to Heaven Everyday” through to the final notes of the hymnal “Old Rugged Cross.” Channeling their infectious chemistry, Rhonda and the Rage display a love for traditional Southern Gospel music and the Lord with their songs of praise.
A companion DVD of the Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ performance is also available, featuring slightly different song selections. If you’ve already had a chance to listen to the project, tell us your favorite song in the comments section below!
Key Tracks – “The Best Last Place,” “Homecoming,” “Blue Sky Cathedral,” “God Put A Rainbow in the Clouds”