Sisters Morales Are Ready for Their Second Act

Longtime Houston Chronicle columnist Marty Racine once wrote that Sisters Morales, who play two shows at Mucky Duck Saturday night, were one of those “backyard bands” that people tend to stop going to see. By backyard band, Racine meant a great act that plays in your area so much and for so long you just stop going to see them, the thinking being "I can see them next time." He compared them to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who used to play in Houston so much we took it for granted that we’d always have the opportunity to see him — until he died in a helicopter crash and we couldn’t see him anymore.

Racine was somewhat prophetic, as Roberta Morales, half of the 20-plus-year running duo with sister Lisa, left the band after the death of their mother in 2009. Both sisters felt under considerable stress; according to both, the grieving eventually overcame everything, including the band. Roberta moved back to their familial hometown, Tucson, and devoted her time to developing a solo career. Lisa continued on, the lone Sister.

But after a few years she describes as “just traveling and doing what I wanted,” Roberta Morales has recently returned to San Antonio, which has always been the band’s home base.

Meanwhile, she had been doing solo gigs of her own in places like Tucson and Albuquerque, and spent some time in Mexico City and a few months in Colorado. She even hosted her own writer-in-the-round at the Duck five years ago with Brennen Leigh and Mike Stinson.

“I liked the time off, the decompression,” says Roberta Morales from her sister’s home in San Antonio, “but I realized that Lisa and I are something special when we appear together. The sibling harmonies are just effortless for us anymore; just like breathing, we don’t even have to think about it.”

In the meantime, a new kind of pressure developed for the popular ensemble who had wowed audiences with a broad mix of alt-country, blues, rock and Mexican rancheras.

“It’s like neither of us could do a show or go anywhere without someone asking what about a reunion,” Morales laughs. “We were actually more popular than I thought, I guess, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked.”

But that’s not all that prompted Roberta to return to the fold.

“The time off gave me a whole new set of experiences and feelings,” she offers. “And that has led to a spurt of songwriting like I haven’t had in years. Lisa’s also been busy writing new songs, so don’t be surprised if we have a new record at some point. But no firm plans yet.”

The initial reunion gigs began in San Antonio in 2014 when the band reunited for a benefit show for a local San Antonio music promoter. They’ve played random gigs ever since, but with Roberta’s relocation to San Antonio, the band plans to begin touring in earnest again. But while she’s glad to be back in the old familiar setting, Roberta has no intentions of sacrificing everything for the Sisters Morales.

“I still have ambitions of doing a solo record and I want to write a children’s book,” she says. “But all things in good time, right? Right now, the full-band Sisters thing feels like a good place to be.”

Sisters Morales perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, January 30 at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Portsmouth.

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William Michael Smith