has so adeptly incorporated the sparkling production of the best contemporary bluegrass recordings with the heartfelt songwriting and passionate playing of the classic era of traditional bluegrass that her third album for Rounder hits that almost perfect balance: updated enough to not sound stuffy, but faithful enough to still sound honest. The leadoff track, "Kentucky Borderline," is an ol' fashioned train song along the lines of "Orange Blossom Special" or "Wabash Cannonball," and the title track (a duet with guest vocalist Alison Krauss
) takes reverent cues from the Del McCoury Band
in its tight harmonies and laid-back, bluesy solos. In context, the divorce-through-the-eyes-of-a-child song "Caught in the Crossfire" is only slightly maudlin, and the blistering trucker tribute "Ridin' the Red Line" is sung with such amphetamine-fueled conviction that very few female country singers could pull it off convincingly, but Vincent
has the range (and the Rage) to perform both the dewy-eyed "Crossfire" and the fiery "Red Line" back to back. The group's warm, a cappella rendition of "Fishers of Men" is reminiscent of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
's best gospel work, and their 20-second rip through the Martha White Flour song is a sly nod to Flatt & Scruggs
and any other picker who has exchanged their music for a quick sponsorship to all of the "Health and Happiness" tonics throughout the years. Highlighted throughout by breakup waltzes, makeup stompers, '40s train songs, '70s trucker songs, and up-to-the-minute acoustic folk numbers, One Step Ahead
is all over the place thematically, but right on the money stylistically.