"As I've gotten to know Patricia over the years, I was first drawn not only to her natural beauty, but to her passion for her music, her drive, her hunger to perform. You can't take your eyes off her when she's onstage. The combination of the power of her performance and the romanticism of her songs creates a real mystique onstage, a very heady concoction." — Alejandro Escovedo
Patricia Vonne has worn many hats in her day: singer, songwriter, bandleader, actress and activist, among them. But with the release of her fifth album, Rattle My Cage (Bandolera Records, Sept. 10, 2013), she assumes a new role — rock 'n' roll Cinderella.
For her new release, Vonne wanted to pay back some of the people who encouraged and inspired her after she moved to Austin from New York City a decade ago. Since she habitually plans her albums during her annual European tours, Vonne put out feelers from the road to friends and mentors to see who would be willing to co-write songs for the project. It was her version of a pumpkin coach and glass slippers.
"I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn't it be wonderful on this album to embrace the music of the artists that have inspired me?'" the San Antonio-born singer/songwriter explains.
Rattle My Cage decants more of the potent mixture of rock, blues, flamenco rhythms and bilingual ballads and grooves that has distinguished Vonne's career, but it also boasts songs by Vonne and an A-list of co-writers. They include Escovedo, Rosie Flores, the late Doyle Bramhall, fellow San Antonian Michael Martin, Alex Ruiz, Peter Kingsbery and her filmmaking brother Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids).
Rattle My Cage has a broad collaborative vision. Here's her breakdown of each writing experience:
Johnny Reno ("Rattle My Cage") — "Johnny was the first musical hero of mine that I got to see live. He absolutely owned the stage and blew me away!" (Vonne and Reno also collaborated on "Hot Rod Heart" on her Firebird album.)
Alejandro Escovedo ("Ravage Your Heart") — "When I was working on the melody, I had Alejandro in mind. I wondered to myself, ‘What would Alejandro do with this?' It was so exciting to approach it in that way."
Rosie Flores ("This Cat's In the Doghouse") — "Rosie sent me this fantastic title and I loved it! I sent her the verses and chorus and she came up with a great bridge that sealed it. We're both San Antonio girls, so she gets it." (Flores also recorded the song on her own Girl of the Century album.)
Doyle Bramhall ("Dark Mile") — "Doyle and I had been talking about co-writing for some time. When I was on tour in Zurich, Switzerland, I sent him what I had written so far, which was a melody with a pulsating drumbeat and some lyrics. He was so easy to work with and we finished it in one sitting. Doyle would call and start singing ‘Change It' and I'd sing back ‘The House Is Rockin' (Bramhall wrote both hits for Stevie Ray Vaughan)."
Michael Martin ("Dulce Refugio") — "He's from San Antonio, too. I met him through Tom Russell. Once I heard him, he reminded me very much of the Cruzados, my No. 1 favorite rock band of all time." (Martin and Vonne also wrote "El Marinero y La Sirena" and "Fuente Vaqueros" on her album Worth It.)
Peter Kingsbery ("Bitter Need") — "Peter is one of my favorite songwriters and I tracked him down in France. I sent him a demo with scratch lyrics and music. In five days he sent me his lyrics back and I used every bit of them. I've never done a ballad like this on an album — stripped down to just piano and vocals."
Robert Rodriguez ("Mexicali de Chispa") — "He's lightning fast. I said, ‘I have this really cool spaghetti western instrumental guitar track,' and I sent him my intro and outro. I said, ‘Check it out.' And he sends it back to me already done! It wasn't our first song together, but it was our first instrumental." (Vonne has roles in two of Rodriguez's upcoming movies: Machete Kills!, release date Oct. 4, 2013, and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, for which she's reprising her Zorro Girl character, due in 2014.)
Vonne left San Antonio at 19 for the concrete canyons of New York City to pursue her musical ambitions. After a 10-year stint building a following in the New York club scene, she decided it was time to return her native Texas, where she embraced her Latin roots.
From the tip of her castanet-snapping fingers to the toes of her hand-tooled cowboy boots, Patricia Vonne is a true Tex-Mex original.
As for Rattle My Cage, let Escovedo have the last word. "She's such a passionate artist and person, and all that seeps through the grooves of her new record," he says. "I think it's her best yet.