Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt

REVIEW: Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt “Hello World”


Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt – Hello World

This unorthodox Philadelphia & Cincinnati duo goes together like potato pancakes & apple sauce. Cello & guitars – what a flavor. Some artists stay in their safety zone, their comfort zone & then artists like Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt push boundaries, challenge the accepted & reshape the traditional & it’s the risk that presents such compelling work.

Their individuality provides the luster that is their unique music showcase. Their newest is a 44-minute endeavor Hello World (Drops March 3–Crooked Cyclone Records) with vocals by both musicians. Their ebullient set touches upon a changed world, tune into the things that matter. As detailed in their press release it’s an LP of storytelling. Children often say, “tell me a story…” And they do.

The team takes little-known pieces of lost history & gives them new life with simple, mature songs. Tales are seldom told in modern songs. There’s “Dr. Joelson’s Bag,” (a general practitioner Morris Joelson who made house calls to Patterson, NJ immigrants during a snowstorm in the 1950s). The duo chooses not to get tied up in mainstream cliches. They dig deep into memories for characters, personalities, events, moments & persecuted people. Music isn’t going to save the world, but it will shed a light if it knows where to shine. Nathans & Ronstadt have torches.

Aaron Nathans

On “Without the Cold,” Mr. Ronstadt’s vocal has the same eccentric plaintive vocals of finger-picker guitar master Leo Kotte (“Don’t You Think,” “Standing On the Outside”). I find it an interesting tonality that possesses a generous share of not entertainment so much as poignancy. Quite a lovely tune with Serenity Fisher harmonies.

There’s plenty to appreciate on this 10-song collection Hello World (Drops March 3–Crooked Cyclone Records). The set is produced by the duo with Gregory Hugh Brady (sine waves/computer beeps/sampled kick drum/ambient guitars/shaker/electric guitar).

“Sorry, Alan,” is the sad song of Alan Turing (father of the computer & war hero) who was persecuted for having been gay. The song is written with a melancholy melody but it’s a lovely song & it acknowledges with respect now for the man he was. “Evening,” strides along in a Beat Generation groove with jazzy ambient overtones. The dialogue is a poem by Clarence Dan Blachly written over 100 years ago.

The songwriting alone, even on the more humorous compositions, is at a high level. Maybe even more than their earlier CDs. As if they were influenced by the likes of Tom Waits, Harry Nilsson & Randy Newman.

Highlights: “Hello World,” “Dr. Joelson’s Bag,” “Without the Cold,” “Sorry, Alan,” “Flatbush Sunset,” “One Dollar Gloves” & “Evening.”

Musicians – Michael (lead vocal/cello/mandolin/steel-stringed, electric guitar & nylon-stringed guitar/ electric bass/harmony vocals/Rhodes keyboard/brushes/piano bench/scrapes/congas/rattle snake sound/kick drum/claps), Aaron (lead vocals/steel-string & nylon-string guitar/piano/claps/harmony vocals), Doug Hamilton (violin) & Adam Pasqueal (Djembe/drums).

Color photo courtesy of their FaceBook. CD @ http://nathansandronstadt.com/

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