By Sheena Barnett
FULTON – For fans and artists alike, the annual bluegrass and gospel concert at Itawamba Community College has become like a family reunion.
Now in its 18th year, the concert showcases fan favorites in bluegrass and gospel, including Rhonda Vicent, Doyle Lawson, the Chuckwagon Gang and Paul Williams and the Victory Trio, all of whom have played at the show for years.
“The line-up is so perfect,” said Kay Mathews, director of Regional Rehab, which the concert benefits. “It’s amazing: For $20, you get four bands and four hours of entertainment. Where can you get a better bargain?”
Vincent said the concert is a highlight of her year.
“There are some people who we only see once a year, and it’s at this one,” she said. “The people are very special.”
Vincent’s on the road with her band, the Rage, to promote her latest album, “Only Me.”
The “Queen of Bluegrass” split the album in two, with equal amounts of bluegrass and country tunes.
“When I was growing up, people would say, ‘Your voice is so country,’” she said. “When I was in Nashville, I was recording my first album and they called me in the office and said, ‘Can you get the bluegrass out of your voice?’ I was really conflicted for many years.”
The day after George Jones died, Vincent sang at the Grand Ole Opry, and as she sang a Jones song, it hit her: Genre is in the ear of the beholder.
She’s celebrating her voice, whether it’s country or bluegrass, on her new album.
“It’s the album I’ve wanted to make for quite some time,” Vincent said.
The concert in Fulton this weekend is heavy on gospel and bluegrass, so she’ll perform tunes from her album that fall into those genres at the show.
For Mathews, the concert is special – it’s Regional Rehab’s biggest fundraiser.
The center’s services, which include speech therapy, occupational therapy, audiology and physical therapy, are provided for free, so events like the concert are necessary for the center to continue.
“We’ve served over 200,000 families in North Mississippi,” Mathews said. “These kinds of events help keep us doing what we do.”
• What: 18th annual Bluegrass/Gospel concert featuring Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Paul Williams and the Victory Trio and Chuckwagon Gang
• When: 4 p.m. Saturday, with a local band beginning at 3 p.m.
• Where: Davis Event Center, Itawamba Community College Fulton campus
• Cost: $20/advance reserved, $15/advance general admission, and tickets increase $5 at the door.
• Info: (662) 842-1891; (662) 862-8272; (662) 862-3711
• Extra: Barbecue plates will be sold from 2-3 p.m. It’s $10, and they must be ordered in advance.