Ronnie Penque: Family Business
When Ronnie Penque’s not busy playing bass and singing with the current incarnation of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, he remains active in his local musical community and also fronts his own combo, The Ronnie Penque Band. He put this album together with various members of the extended NRPS family, but it still flows seamlesly from track to track. Fans of The Band, New Riders and the Dead will find much to like here, with tunes that balance Penque’s concise, hook-filled melodies with the ensemble’s free-flowing improvisations. The album kicks off with “Crawford,” an upbeat, Cajun flavored romp. Penque’s mellow vocals are supported by solos from fiddler Kenny Harten (NRPS), twang-drenched guitarists David Nelson (NRPS), Mike Flynn and Chris Penque (Ripple), and Mookie Siegel (RatDog/David Nelson Band) on accordion. “Wookie Kids” tips its hat to the fans that follow bands like Phish, NRPS and the Dead from gig to gig without any visible means of support, or ability to buy tickets. The uplifting chorus is given wings by Penque’s funky bass line and cheerful singing, setting the stage for some extended guitar shredding and Siegel’s rousing organ fills. The group’s laid-back version of Merle Haggard’s “The Fugitive” uses the familiar guitar hook created by Roy Nichols on the original hit; the guitar solo pairs well with Penque’s easygoing vocals while still staying clear of obvious tributes. “Wish You Luck,” “That’s All” and “Shave That Rock” complement Penque’s songwriting with extended jams, while “Wondering” sounds like an outtake from The Band’s eponymous second album with its inspirational lyrics and Jeff Pearlman’s sanctified organ fills.