Photo Credit: Lia Chang

Elizabeth Ward Land
Still Within the Sound of My Voice/The Songs of Linda Ronstadt
The Green Room 42
Jan 16, 17 & 18, 2020 7:00 pm

Elizabeth Ward Land explored the life and work of Linda Ronstadt in her show Still Within the Sound of My Voice-The Songs of Linda Ronstadt. Directed by Alan Muraoka, the evening of great songs and arrangements was truly engaging from start to finish. Ward Land had a very easy connection with her audience from the beginning as she sang a version of Heat Wave (L Dozier/B Holland/E Holland) that began with an ethereal strain of Blue Bayou. She then shared the question with us that she had asked herself: “Why Linda? – it was like a bomb went off in my head” she later realized. Linda’s music had followed her throughout her life. Like Linda, Ward Land created her own path to pursue her dreams. Ronstadt’s ability to continually evolve and reinvent herself inspired and paralleled Ward Land’s own musical and personal journey.

Once on her own, it didn’t take too long for Ronstadt to stand out from her first band, The Stone Poneys, as the main attraction and was well on her way to a solo career. The next set of songs was from Ronstadt’s early days- Heat Wave, (Dozier/Holland), Different Drum (Mike Nesmith), When Will I Be Loved (Everly Brothers), That’ll Be The Day (Holly), Just One Look (Troy) and Shoop (Everet). Beautiful arrangements of these songs, by music director Andrew David Sotomayer, suited Ward Land’s range and voice, which has a quality at times similar to Ronstadt’s. The accomplished band was comprised of Kevin Kuhn (guitars), Jordan Jancz (Cello and Bass), Arei Sekiguchi (Drums) and Joel Waggoner (violin, vocals and arrangements). Ward Land was also supported by her two talented back-up singers: Catherine Porter and Joel Waggoner.

An excellent storyteller, Ward Land told her audience about her “magical” childhood and early musical training. Her mother, a music teacher, taught the family to play piano and Ward Land went on to college to study the oboe. However, a big moment in her life arrived when she announced that she wanted to sing and be on Broadway. Like Ronstadt, Ward Land went through many stages of growth. She had some relationships that didn’t work so well before finally settling down with “one person and a lot of cats.” Like Ronstadt, the love of music was always a through line in her life. She loved to sing by herself and also harmonize with her musical peers.

The next set of Ronstadt songs Ward Land covered featured her back-up singers, Porter and Wagonner, and some magnificent harmonies in Heart Like A Wheel (Anna McGarigle) and Faithless Love (John David Souther). A generous performer, Ward Land gave her singing partners their own moments to shine. Each performer demonstrating a strong connection to the lyric and to the audience.

An important section in the evening was the Mexican selection of songs from Ronstadt’s Grammy winning 1987 album Canciones De Mi Padre- La Tequileria (Alfred D’Orsay) and Friennes (Alberto Dominguez). Ward Land found yet another quality in her voice and with the help of her band made some beautiful mariachi music.

A highlight of the evening was Blue Bayou (Roy Orbinson). The song, one of Rondstadt’s biggest hits received a totally new treatment in the arrangement by music director Andrew David Sotomayer. With an ethereal instrumental background. The piece began with Ward Land singing in her (unusual) sensual low voice and modulated up several times showing even more of her impressive range. The effect was stunning.

Ward Land recounted her love of collaboration, connecting that to Ronstadt’s duets with other singers in The Collaboration Medley: The Pain of Loving You (Dolly Parton), Somewhere Out There (Horner/Weill), All My Life (K Bonoff) and her delving into operetta in The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert/Sullivan). Ward Land’s backup singers portrayed the young lovers in “Stay Frederic Stay” with appropriate romantic fervor.

Ward Land revealed a story of the time Ronstadt announced to her own musical family that she wanted to leave home and become a singer. Her father left the room and came back with $30 and an 1898 Martin Guitar that his father had given to him and repeated the words his father had said: “Now that you have a guitar you will never go hungry.” Ward Land shared about her supportive family and demonstrated her own guitar skills (supported by her guitarist Kevin Kuhn) on Long, Long Time (Gary B. White).

Ward Land went on to discuss Ronstadt’s awareness that something wasn’t right in her body and her eventual Parkinson’s diagnosis. This led to Still Within the Sound of My Voice (Jimmy Webb). Rondstadt was grateful for her diagnosis because she finally knew what was going on in her body. Ward Land was grateful to celebrate Linda’s life and work. In her encore -Desperado (Henley/Fry), she accompanied herself (well!) on the piano. Like Ronstadt, Ward Land is multi-faceted and skilled, and the evening proved enjoyable from start to finish.