Much like her big brother, Robert Rodriguez, Patricia Vonne loves archetypal border characters. Her thoroughly excellent new album, Guitars & Castanets
, overflows with romantic references to gypsy cowboys, rebel brides, lonesome riders, cotton fields, tumbleweeds, and the magnetic pull of Texas' scorching heat.
It's all very melodramatic stuff, but Vonne makes it work - partly because she pairs it with locomotive grooves, and partly because she believes it to the core. Not many songwriters would dare to offer a line like "Don't mess with Texas or a green-eyed girl," but at her heightened level of reality, it's strangely plausible, kind of like the cantina-scene dialogue in Desperado.
| Guitars & Castanets |
Vonne has a background in acting (most prominently in her brother's films) and dance, but she's no dilettante where music is concerned. Her voice, which occasionally recalls the warmth of Roseanne Cash, easily darts from the raucous belting of "Rebel Bride" to the ethereal sweep of "La Gitana de Triana" to the the country twang of "Texas Burning." With expert backing that includes Buttercup guitarist Joe Reyes, session wizard Charlie Sexton, and veteran singer-songwriter Jon Dee Graham, she commands the proceedings with charismatic assurance.
It's rare to find an artist able to shift so convincingly from singing in Spanish over lilting Latin rhythms to singing in English over a roots-rock track. Ultimately, this album is so strong you'll find yourself forgiving Vonne for naming one song (a Johnny Reno tribute) "Sax Maniac" and naming another after Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.
— Gilbert Garcia