Music: Family ties

Ronstadt Generations carries the torch

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Ronstadt Generations performs twice in the North Bay this week, hitting up the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol on January 6 and Novato’s HopMonk Tavern on Jan. 7.

By Charlie Swanson

The Ronstadt family traces their roots in Tucson, Arizona back five generations, and each one of them has been a music lover. Everyone of a certain generation knows the name Linda Ronstadt, but she’s not the only singer and songwriter currently carrying on the family tradition.

Formed in 2009 by Linda’s brother Michael J. Ronstadt, and now fronted by his sons Michael G. and Pete, Ronstadt Generations blends almost 200 years of Southwestern musical folk heritage to create a lush, sun-drenched and multi-genre repertoire all their own.

Only 13 months apart in age, Michael G. and Pete grew up with music ingrained in family activities and gatherings, though they also got to see the professional side of that life early on.

“When we were young, my aunt [Linda] was doing mariachi records and my dad [Michael J.] was singing with her, so we got to travel to studios and be a part of that,” Pete says. “Looking back on it, it was impactful in how we came up as musicians; it really left a big imprint on my life.”

The brothers formally got into music through school bands. Michael chose the cello, “because he could sit down to play it,” jokes Pete. “In my opinion, he plays the cello like no one else.”

Pete started his musical upbringing on violin before migrating to upright bass and guitar. “I just try to expand my musical library of instruments,” he says, noting that he also dabbles on banjo and tuba.

After a few years of playing as a trio on the road, Michael J. and sons evolved their family band into a six-piece ensemble by recruiting fellow Tucson musicians Alex Flores (tenor sax and vocals), Sam Eagon (upright and electric bass) and Aaron Emery (drums and percussion), and expanding the band’s moniker to Ronstadt Generations y Los Tucsonenses.

Sadly, Michael J. Ronstadt passed away early in 2016 at the age of 62, though his sons are committed to keeping the family tradition going.

“We all put a lot of heart into it,” Pete says. “I think he would want to see it live on.”

Ronstadt Generations y Los Tucsonenses; January 6, HopMonk, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol; 8pm; Jan. 7, HopMonk, 224 Vintage Way, Novato; 8pm; hopmonk.com.

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