Phoenixville cellist with musical legacy set to release folk rock collaboration

Photo courtesy of Michael Ronstadt Michael Ronstadt (left) and Aaron Nathans

Phoenixville's arts and music scene continues to thrive as native Michael Ronstadt, along with his musical partner Aaron Nathans, get ready to release their new album, 'Crooked Fiddle,' on Oct. 10. The duo will embark on an East Coast tour to promote their first collaborative effort.

Ronstadt, a fulltime musician and cello virtuoso, hails from a musical family. He is the nephew of Grammy Award-winning singer Linda Ronstadt and plays hundreds of shows each year, both nationally and internationally, along with his father and brother in The Ronstadt Generations group.

He first collaborated with Nathans, a longtime Philadelphia songwriter, four years ago. The pair have been busy recording 'Crooked Fiddle' for the past year and a half. The album features 11 original songs and one cover: Bob Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower.'

'It falls into the folk category, but it's edgier,' Ronstadt says of the album. 'We have cello and guitar, but I am a cellist who improvises. We do a lot of driving rhythm backing up this folk music, as well as some just beautiful ballad-style pieces.'

Ronstadt, who is classically trained, says his musical influences span a wide range of musical genres from classical to Southwestern folk to classic and progressive rock.

'I have a lot of classical influence because that's my study,' he explains. 'I grew up in Tucson, so my influences range from a lot of the traditional Mexican music, Southwestern Folk music, as well as bluegrass and old-time fiddle music.'

Nathans is a journalist as well as a musician, and writes many of the lyrics on the new album. Says Ronstadt: 'Aaron's lyrics can grab you by the heart and pull at those strings. He has a lot of influences from literature and the journalism world, as well as just being able to tell a great story.'

Ronstadt also credits his musical family as influencing his career, including his famous aunt, Linda, who has also worked in an extremely wide range of genres.

'She influenced me a lot in that she is a professional musician who made a living and stuck to her musical integrity, which you don't always see,' he says. 'I cross a lot of genre barriers. I think music is music; if it is done from the heart, and you're expressing and saying something, then you are going to make good music.

'My aunt, with all of the record company stuff, she still was able to choose songs that meant something to her. She chose good music and she chose good players and she sang her heart out. That was a big influence.'

Ronstadt often plays locally in Phoenixville and says he enjoys the intimacy and the ability to connect with the audience while performing at smaller venues such as Steel City, The Pickering Creek Inn, Black Walnut Winery and the Diving Cat Gallery.

'I love how there are artists, musicians and a good coffee that come together on the main street,' he says. 'There are really great little bars to mingle with folks. You have all of that together and it's good energy. Our community really supports each other.'

To celebrate the new album, Ronstadt and Nathans decided to book a handful of CD release shows in the Philadelphia area as well as New Jersey and Delaware.

Tour dates and more information are available at Aaronnathans.com and Michaelronstadt.com.

Crooked Fiddle is available at www.CDbaby.com and will be coming to iTunes soon.

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