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Stagecoach: Vocal harmony from the Secret Sisters, Rhonda Vincent and Steel Magnolia

April 30, 2011 |  9:17 pm

Vocal harmony has played a crucial role in country music dating back to those wondrous vocal blends of the Carter Family in the ' 20s and even earlier, and Stagecoach audiences were exposed to an invigorating variety of ways to combine voices on Saturday.

Rhonda Vincent and her band keep winning bluegrass industry awards for good reason: They uphold and perpetuate the highest standards of musicianship as instrumentalists and singers. She and her cohorts huddled around a single mike the way so many groups were required to do when performing on live radio broadcasts.

Steel Magnolia, on the other hand, played up the contrast between Meghan Linsey's sweet and spunky -- but soulful -- voice and her partner Joshua Scott Jones' grittier male counterpart, no doubt aiming to win some of the following that Sugarland has built.

The two exhibited good chemistry, although their harmonizing didn't plumb the depths the Secret Sisters reached applying their sibling symbiosis to songs of the deepest emotions. The unearthly intervals Laura and Lydia Rogers chose for Bill Monroe's "The One I Love Is Gone" made tangible the sense of eternal heartache voiced in the lyrics -- the message, perhaps, that the only solace for human suffering may be found in music.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones of Steel Magnolia perform at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images