With their much-anticipated second album, “Hang On for the Ride,” the dynamic cello/guitar duo of Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt push the boundaries of folk music with a creative, adventurous, and wildly enjoyable new work.
Their previous album, “Crooked Fiddle,” was a surprise favorite among folk music fans. The album fused nostalgia, emotion and musical virtuosity, alongside songs that got stuck in your head in the best way. Most importantly, the music was authentic -- sparse, brilliant and honest.
But for two artists who believe in challenging themselves, making the same album twice was out of the question. For a follow-up project, they would channel the immediacy of their live shows, which are always exciting events. They would push themselves musically, with complex orchestral arrangements that sound deceptively simple.
And in keeping with their commitment to honesty, the music would reflect the challenging times during which it was made. The recording of this project paused last summer when Michael’s father and namesake, the great Michael J. Ronstadt, died.
The resulting album is a portrait of contrasts, darkness and light: young love, ghostly photographs of old friends long gone, and the urge to run away to find peace and safety. Nathans & Ronstadt venture into lyrical corners other songwriters would never dare: peanut allergies, or climate change rendered as a hallucinogenic carousel ride. The Queen classic “Another One Bites the Dust” is recast as a jazzy murder ballad.
The title track talks of hanging on through tough times. And the leadoff song, by the elder Ronstadt, is a vision of making one’s way through the snowy North, as seen through sun-kissed Southwestern eyes.
Michael, who hails from his famous Arizona family, now lives in Cincinnati, where he is a sought-after cello teacher and mentor. He is also a member of the Ronstadt Brothers (formerly Ronstadt Generations) and Serenity Fisher & The Cardboard Hearts, and also works with Craig Bickhardt and David Trotta. Aaron lives with his family in greater Philly. He also performs solo and, along with Avi Wisnia, founded and leads the Philly Songwriters Circle, a song critique group. He has been a Kerrville New Folk finalist.
Nathans & Ronstadt were named Best of Philly Folk Fest by Philly CityPaper in 2015. Michael Tearson of SingOut! Magazine wrote of “Crooked Fiddle”: “This is an engaging, warm and intimate collaboration between songwriter Aaron Nathans and songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist Michael G. Ronstadt... Throughout the songs are stirring and they leave you thinking. A thoroughly satisfying and stimulating effort.”
And Matt Casarino of the Delaware comedy duo HotBreakfast! wrote: “Aaron and Michael are amazing musicians and songwriters. Their first album ‘Crooked Fiddle’ is a masterpiece of modern folk - beautiful, introspective, funny, earthy, and wonderful... I want another album from these guys, and soon.”
“We think Aaron’s journalistic storytelling skills paired with Michael’s unique instrumental (and songwriting) chops will continue to spin gold for as long as they choose to work together — a lengthy time, we hope!”(Richard Cuccaro, 2015).
“Nathans and Ronstadt are cashmere. Music you would want to get closer to and not be overwhelmed by. The well-thought-out approaches here are smooth with poignant tales filled with sincerity. Like many Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits songs, these tunes can linger in your ears and follow you into bed where you will be looking up at the ceiling with your eyes closed in the dark and the melodies still partying into your sleep.” – John Apice, No Depression review
“This is an engaging, warm and intimate collaboration between songwriter Aaron Nathans and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Michael G. Ronstadt... Throughout the songs are stirring and they leave you thinking. A thoroughly satisfying and stimulating effort.” - Michael Tearson, Sing Out! Magazine review
Crooked Fiddle debuted in September 2014 to #12 on the Folk DJ charts, with the first single, “Old Joe’s Chair,” debuting at #10. It continues to garner radio airplay on multiple formats worldwide. "This new CD from Aaron Nathans and Michael G. Ronstadt, 'Crooked Fiddle,' deserves your attention. Michael and Aaron have teamed up to create a powerful work of art that I guarantee will move you." - Ron Olesko, WFDU's "Traditions."
"Crooked Fiddle" was among the favorite CD's of 2014 by DJ's Wanda Fischer (WAMC), Joe Psoneck (Radio Nowhere), John Rumsey (KVMR) and WWSP's Acoustic Revival. Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt continue to promote “Crooked Fiddle” with live performances. Please check either artist’s Web site for dates near you.
“Like hydrogen atoms when they fuse, they release tremendous energy. Musically, they come from different worlds. Aaron is a clever songwriter whose greatest strength is his wit and use of language. Michael is a conservatory trained cello virtuoso who reveals a winning playfulness when he performs… They take your mind places it has not been before.” – Gordon Nash, Wise Madness Blog
released December 30, 2017
“Hang On for the Ride,” an album by Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt. Produced by Michael Gilbert Ronstadt and
“Northwind” by Michael J. Ronstadt, a.k.a “Papa Mike.”
“Hang On for the Ride,” “The Strength to Not Fight Back,” “Turncoat Peanut,” and “Old Film” by Aaron Nathans, Hardy Lily
“Peace & Safety” and “Run Run Run Away” by Michael G. Ronstadt, MGR Publishings, ASCAP.
“Undone” and “Old Waltzes & Skylights” by Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt, Hardy Lily Music/MGR Publishings,
ASCAP. “Conshohocken Curve” by Aaron Nathans, Michael G. Ronstadt, and Serenity Fisher, Hardy Lily Music/MGR
Publishings, ASCAP/Serenitree Music, BMI.
“The ‘I Love You’ Heart” by Dale Kidd and Aaron Nathans, Hardy Lily Music, ASCAP.
“Another One Bites the Dust” by John Deacon, Beechwood Music Corp.
Michael G. Ronstadt: Cello, guitar, vocals, organ, bass, hand percussion, piano, pots and pans
Aaron Nathans: Guitar, vocals, finger snaps, packing tape, piano, and assorted sounds
Chris Kelly: Drums on “Undone,” “The Strength to Not Fight Back,” and “Conshohocken Curve”
Brad Yoder: Soprano saxophone and glockenspiel on “The Strength to Not Fight Back”
Andrew Nath: Harmony vocals on “The ‘I Love You’ Heart”
Mixed by Phil Henry. Mastered by Mark Dann. Engineered by MGR, Ernie Tokay, Daniel Bower, Chris Kelly, Harvey, Matt
Teacher, Mike Lawson, and Mark Croft.
Aaron and Michael recorded at these studios: Little Spiders Have Big Dreams (Phoenixville, PA); Studio del Diablo (Brooklyn,
NY); Barndance Productions (Wallingford, PA); and Sine Studios (Philadelphia). Thanks to the following people who allowed
us to use their homes for recording: Matt Weiss & Marie Norman (Pittsburgh, PA); Jenny Nathans & Jon Abrams (Boston,
MA); and Joanne & Martin Neff (Queens, NY). Additional recording completed at Aaron’s home in Delaware County, PA, and
Michael’s home in Cincinnati, OH.
Photography by Monica Donovan. Design and Layout by Scott Wolfson, OriginalBrain Media.
Thank you Ernie Tokay, Larry Ahearn, Kathy Sands-Boehmer, Linda D’Avanzo, Jay Fine, and Cheryl Kagan. Special thanks to
Marion Halliday, Bob Coren, David Holiday, Oxford Community Arts Center, Dima Scherbie, the Stanek Family, Sharla & Fred
Ronstadt, Craig Poynter, and Anonymous. A big thanks to Alan Jay Prescott.
Michael would like to thank his brother, Petie Ronstadt, for being the family genius and eternal collaborator, his parents for
cultivating and encouraging his love of music, performance, and artistic creativity. He would also like to thank his teachers and
mentors, Gordon Epperson, Nancy Green, Nelzimar Neves, Yehuda Hanani, and William Grubb. Michael could not have found
musical joy without his countless co-conspirators and collaborators, Aaron Nathans, Serenity Fisher, Kenneth D. Stewart, Josh
Hisle, David Trotta, James Dalton, Craig Bickhardt, Falina Enriquez, Tripp Watts, Amber Norgaard, Will Clipman, Bobby Fisher,
Lisa Biales, Dan Collins, Ralph Gordon, Doug Hamilton, Rose Reidmiller Gowda, Matt Halvorson, and Alexander Mitchell.
Aaron would like to thank his patient, supportive, and loving bride, Debra; L&C; Mom & Dad; Jenny & Jon; Pop-Pop, Grandma
Judy, the Neffs and the whole family. Also thanks to Phil Henry, Scott Wolfson, Avi Wisnia, Johnathan McCullough, Serenity
Fisher, Petie Ronstadt, Mark Croft, Reggie Harris, Julia Bernd, Nik Everett, and everyone who has been so supportive of this
enterprise. And thanks to the incomparable MGR. Remembering Harold Nathans, Gary Krasnow, and Marybeth D’Amico.
This album is dedicated to Michael Joseph Ronstadt, Michael G. Ronstadt’s late father.
An exceptional musician-composer conversant with a wide range of styles, he not only executes captivating solo performances,
but participates regularly in duo and trio situations. Displaying genre-blending explorations on cello and guitar in complement to thought-provoking lyrics, Michael G. is a much sought-after studio musician, who has appeared on more than sixty albums in the last dozen years....more