When: Sat., Jan. 3, 8 p.m. 2015
FLETCHER OPERA THEATER, RALEIGH—If you follow bluegrass only closely enough to know the names of the major players or make semi-informed decisions when IBMA comes to Raleigh each autumn, you might consider Rhonda Vincent to be the bluegrass underground's Alison Krauss. She's a veteran bluegrass bandleader with trademark glamor, skill to spare on her chosen instrument (the mandolin) and a résumé that's nearly as old as she is. Vincent, mind you, cut her first record at the tender age of 8.
But if bluegrass is anything more than a personal passing fancy, Vincent is a bona fide star. She may not have cut an album with Robert Plant or popped up on any Disney soundtracks like Krauss. She has, however, earned a truckload of bluegrass awards and an armful of Grammy nominations. Not counting her numerous special projects, she's released 16 albums. She pals around with Dolly Parton. And on her latest record, Only Me, she even takes Willie Nelson as a duet partner on the title track.
Whether new-school or traditional, bluegrass is in the Missouri native's blood. She grew up playing with her family band, and her brother, Darrin, is half of the successful bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent. Out on tour or playing the annual festival she hosts and headlines on her home turf in Queen City, Vincent boasts brilliant variety onstage. Backed by her band The Rage, she is as likely to leap into a classic country tune like Floyd Tillman's '40s honky-tonky hit, "Driving Nails in My Coffin" or her buddy Dolly's evergreen "Jolene" as she is to trot out her own successes, like the pop-friendly 2003 ballad "You Can't Take It With You When You Go" or 2005's "I've Forgotten You."
Just don't get your hopes too high for any surprise celebrity guest appearances; she may have shared time with Parton on "Heartbreaker's Alibi" (from 2006's All-American Bluegrass Girl), but the queen of Dollywood is unlikely to pop up when her pal plays Raleigh. What, the most award-winning band in bluegrass today isn't enough for you? 8 p.m., $27.14–$37.14, 2 E. South St., 919-99608700, dukeenergycenterraleigh.com. —Jim Allen