"Former journalist Aaron Nathans has stories to tell — and a lot a ways to tell them. His compadre, Michael G. Ronstadt , a member of the musically gifted Ronstadt clan (his aunt Linda is proof), besides adding audacious cello riffs, adds a few stories of his own.
This album showcases a blend of strengths: Aaron’s love of history and storytelling and Michael’s prodigious musical chops. Both baritones — I’m guessing — Aaron’s reedy timbre harmonizes well with Michael’s softer tone.
The leadoff track, “Northwind,” is by Michael’s father who recently passed away, and to whom the album is dedicated. The elder Ronstadt’s lyrics describe the onset of a winter storm with chilling clarity. Michael and Aaron trade stanzas to great effect. In the title track, we’re told to “hang on for the ride,” even when life’s paths don’t lead where we expect, even when they produce anxiety and grief. Mornings when my train is late / when I stumble out that gate / Don’t go asking why / Hang on for the ride. Michael’s cello adds the right note of gravitas to Aaron’s steady guitar strum. “The Strength to Not Fight Back” shows Aaron’s love of historical figures as he recounts the struggles of Jackie Robinson.
My favorite, “Undone,” reflects the parting of the doubting parent, with the unproven child who races pell-mell out into the world. Good luck to you, sorry I can’t see it through, and I know that soon we / have to say I’ll see you on another day, I watch the houses fade away / tree tops, branches growing more askew / meld into a single hue / seems I left it all for you / Undone … undone / I tried to teach you everything I knew / now I know there’s nothing more that I can do / fool me, let’s see what you can do / Undone … undone. The harmony on this song is extremely tight and a real treat. Layers of swift cello riffs accentuate the sense of the child racing away. The quality of this recording bodes well for this talented duo."
MORE ABOUT AARON & MICHAEL
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.
"Aaron Nathans and Michael G Ronstadt are very unique and distinctive songwriting entities who have joined forces to marvelous result. Their new CD "Hang On for the Ride" is a fascinating look into an outstanding musical partnership!" Joltin' Joe - Radio Nowhere
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.
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