Two revered Arizonan bands group together again for an eclectic journey through American roots music.
Ronstadt Generations is a traditional country-folk fusion trio comprised of Linda’s younger brother Michael J. and his two sons, Michael G. and Petie. Los Tucsonenses is an eclectic quartet comprised of tenor saxophonist Alex Flores, bassist Sam Eagon, drummer Aaron Emery, lap steel guitarist Tom Hampton and organist Richard Katz. Together, they are Ronstadt Generations y Los Tucsonenses, a Tucson, Arizona super-group celebrating a vastly locally-celebrated collaboration which has so far sprouted two studio albums, Prelude and Epilogue. The latter was released in April of 2014, but is spreading around the city more as the two acts do, and features a multifarious mixture of musical traditions.
Each of the eight tracks on Epilogue marks a traversal through a different scene in America’s illustrious history of roots music. While the album is unfortunately short — only clocking in at around 36 minutes — it most certainly is sweet for as long as it lasts. The album opens with a cover of Jackson Browne’s elegiac lament “For a Dancer”. The patriarch Ronstadt does an impeccable job with carrying the trademark melody of the song, weaving a world-worn tale all his own whilst being accompanied with solid, intermittent harmonies by Petie and Michael G. Listeners get a taste of Michael G.’s cello playing near the end, and on the overall, the track does a stand-up job in setting the tone for the rest of the album.
The band stretches their musical muscle with their take on Robert Johnson’s time-honored blues classic, “Come On in My Kitchen”. Here, listeners attain a tangible grasp on how tight the Ronstadt trio can be with their infectious harmonies, as paired with the substantial instrumentation of they and Los Tucsonenses collaboration. It isn’t until their rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” that the fruit of the two groups’ association wholly ripens, with Petie’s raspy lilt being met by a bombastic sax performance on behalf of Flores. The electricity in the instrumentation on this track really meets an unprecedented level of excellence in contrast to the other compositions on the record, affirming an idea that the band should not shy away from taking on more fast-paced songs in the future.
With that said, Epilogue still manages to feel fresh in its overall delivery. Outside of the aforementioned tracks, the band’s cover of Tennessee Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” is an earthy homage to the swampy staple. It’s a song that’s easy to tap a foot to, especially when the Ronstadts return with their incredible harmonies on the doo-wop-esque bridge. Elsewhere, Ronstadt Generations Y Los Tucsonenses experiment with electric guitar paired with a rowdy saxophone on “Women ‘cross the River” and plucky island melodies on “I Know What I Know”.
The closest that the band comes to topping “Can’t Be Satisfied” is in their trailblazing rendition of “Riders in the Sky”, offering an incredibly competent vocal to Johnny Cash's reflection on the cowboy legend. It is topped off by a high-energy fiddle and guitar solo that really ramps up a classic intensity for the band as Epilogue comes to a close, with one last impeccably held harmony to top it all off.
All in all, Epilogue is a fine showing for Ronstadt Generations y Los Tucsonenses – a superband that we hope won’t go away any time soon, especially considering that they still owe us a longer album cut.