Nightclubs are closed, tours are canceled, and the list of album releases getting postponed until autumn lengthens daily. What’s a restless artist to do?
Simplify, and create in the moment.
Ray LaMontagne’s sweetly soulful “We’ll Make It Through” is one of the more famous quarantine-related singles to emerge recently from artists across the spectrum with homemade videos and/or encouraging messages of resilience. Some express pandemic-triggered anxieties, others mine humor from our new normal of Zoom meetings.
Forced to slow down, others savor everyday blessings like love and nature (and the Golden State’s deliciously clean skies — nothing like a quarantine to clear the roads, and the air). The California Honeydrops (https://www.cahoneydrops.com/) frontman Lech Wierzynkski says he woke up one morning with “there was music all in the air” floating around his mind; imagery from a dream about his grandmother gardening worked its way into a song, the just-released “In the Air,” which he finished “in the depths of the wintertime blues.” It’s a hopeful California dream, with a spirit-boosting groove: smarturl.it/Intheairsingle.
Pasadena-raised soul artist Chris Pierce’s “How Can Anybody Be Okay With This” feels like a retro classic — a gospel-rooted civil rights protest in the tradition of Sam Cooke or Curtis Mayfield. It never mentions Ahmaud Arbery by name. But its timely, heartsick lyric (“How is this land for you and me/ When we can’t run in our own streets?”) takes on greater momentum in the context of a quarantine and virus that leave us feeling stuck, maddened by questions with elusive answers. An acoustic at-home performance is up on Pierce’s website: http://www.chrispierce.com/.
Highland Park’s Emily Zuzik (https://www.emilyzuzik.com/) was already co-writing with Todd Carter of Brooklyn-based pop band The Looking and Passenger bassist Rob Calder, who’s been hunkering down in Bloomington, Indiana, when she heard about the open #TogetherTunes invitation issued by 88.5 FM host Nic Harcourt (https://www.885fm.org/togethertunes). She submitted their song, “40 Days of Darkness,” and from their scattered locations the three created a cinematic video thrumming with Wurlitzer, a taut rhythmic undertow, scenic LA vistas and mystery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0SUJoYUJcI&feature=emb_title.
Local Americana bands I See Hawks in LA (https://iseehawksinla.bandcamp.com/) and Great Willow (https://www.greatwillowmusic.com/) took a cosmic view when co-writing and recording their good-hearted response to #TogetherTunes, “Radio Keeps Me on the Ground” (officially released Friday). Describing the song as “our thoughts on living with the Covid-19 crisis in LA,” Hawks guitarist Paul Lacques also calls it “a love letter to good old terrestrial radio.”
“There’s never been a lonelier time
To learn to breathe in a way
That you won’t have to fly
Be fertile in this empty time
This will pass
By and by”
Lacques and Hawks drummer Victoria Jacobs made their contributions to the song’s performance video from their Highland Park home; Hawks frontman Rob Waller and bassist Paul Marshall and Great Willow frontman and James Combs and keyboardist Ed Barguiarena added parts from their individual enclaves across LA. Lacques says singing and playing together “felt very communal and healing,” despite being physically distanced. (“Home studios saved the day.”) It’s a testament to friendship, and to the enduring fact that where there’s a musical will there’s likely a technological way to connect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9k6quVglrM&feature=youtu.be.