Quarantunes Vol. II: Exploring New Music Amid A Pandemic

By Tom Wickstrom

Dedicated Men of Zion

Tom is Matt Wickstrom’s father who is transitioning to writing occasional columns on the site from his own blog, Tie Dyed Tunes. Additionally, Tom also creates a variety of home-made tie-dye clothing and garments including t-shirts, face masks and bath robes. Browse some of his work on Facebook at Wicki’s Tie Dyes.

Back in April 2020 I posted my first Quarantunes article, which highlighted the music that was released in the beginning of the year. The pandemic was barely a month old so I shared some new music that, at the time, was getting me through a time without live music. It is now November and a lot of cool music has emerged during the last few months of isolation. I love discovering new music that is not on my radar but quickly becomes a favorite to listen to.

Read about a few of my favorite new album’s released during quarantine below…

Dedicated Men Of Zion Can’t Turn Me Around

If you are a fan of the “Sacred Steel” sound that blends rock’n roll with African-American gospel music that gets you on your feet and grooving, then the new album from the Dedicated Men Of Zion is for you. Reminiscent of the Campbell Brothers, the Blind Boys Of Alabama and Robert Randolph & the Family Band, the Dedicated Men Of Zion offer up 10 songs that preach up gospel messages with a backdrop of bluesy rock’n roll. The opening “Father, Guide Me, Teach Me” is a great introduction to their style of music and every track stands on its own. I love listening to this in the morning to get my day started in the right direction.

James Hyland Western

Clocking in at 80 minutes, this 19 track CD (20 tracks on digital version) immediately drew me in with Hyland’s gritty storytelling voice, the guitar work of Johnny Moeller, which reminded me of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits and the Kim Deschamps’s pedal steel & dobro playing. “Texas Ranger” puts you in the saddle as you follow Hyland on one of his storytelling journeys. “You’ve Come To The Right Place” has a haunting feel, which seems to be the center of many of his songs. “Nashville Song,” a wishful song about getting one’s song on the map, evoked similarities to Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “12 Bar Blues.” “The Ballad Of Eddie Mullet” and “Today’s A Good Day To Die” are two more of my favorite tracks, but in actuality every song in captivating in one sense or the other.

Julian Taylor The Ridge

Based out of Toronto, Julian Taylor pushed up the release of “The Ridge” in the hope that his songs would bring joy to people during these troubled times. With a rich and melodic voice along the lines of Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Diamond, his songs are catchy and have a folky acoustic feel. The album’s title track looks back and is a tribute to Taylor’s summers growing up in British Columbia. I get a strong Roy Orbison vibe from “Love Enough.” “The Ballad Of A Young Troubadour” seems self-biographical in nature and “Ola, Let’s Dance,” which is preceded with a poem by John T. Shanks, speaks about hope for now and into the future.

Anthony Garcia Acres of Diamonds

Anthony Garcia shares nine songs, mostly from his arsenal of live material that have been fan favorites over the past 14 years, that have been reimagined for the album, saying that he tends to hold onto songs and hone them over time. A guitarist and classically trained pianist, genre lines blur as Garcia utilizes edgy rock’n roll with epic guitar solos and strong vocals. “The Wind” is a folky ballad that reminded me of Mason William’s “Classical Gas.” “My Hands Are My Eyes,” an uptempo rocker with an intense guitar solo and “For Your Love,” an eerie ballad about love lost and wanting it back are two more great tracks. Acres Of Diamonds possesses an edgier rocking feel that is infectious and leaves the listener yearning for more.

Emily Duff Born On The Ground

Emily Duff wrote every song on Born On The Ground, each of which capture a different relationship breakup from her life. Following the tradition of big voiced singers of the past, Duff draws similarities to Tanya Tucker and Margo Price. Considered a city punk cowgirl, her soulful bluesy voice blends rock’n roll with just the right amount of country and soul. “We Ain’t Going Nowhere” comes across as an anthem about breaking up and moving on, while “No Escape” offers up a dark ballad with a spooky feel to it. “Something Sexy” reminds me of an old school Tanya Tucker song and “Knuckle Sandwich” is hard driving and infectious.  

Rob Williams Weathering The Storm Vol. 1

Rob Williams knows how to write a song. With a melodic and smooth voice, Williams writes catchy, well crafted and engaging songs that are rooted in his personal experiences with depression. The opening track, “Nameless,” is uplifting, catchy and about eschewing fame for freedom. “Falling Sky” is an impelling song with grooving guitar work about our world today. “A Hard Time” is an upbeat anthem about revealing to others that you need help and that things will be fine with time. “Only Heaven Knows” offers up a percussive beat that reminds me of a train slowly down the track like many so long ago as they travelled across the country into the unknown. “Ghostwriter” is a sad ballad about a relationship falling apart and moving on.

Check out all these releases. Hopefully, music provides medicine for your heart and soul in these unique times.

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