Finding musical inspiration during the pandemic

  • Jamie Kent Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 10/15/2020 10:55:21 AM

To say that 2020 has been a turbulent year is an understatement. Many songwriters have turned to their art to express their feelings about the pandemic, the current political situation, the climate crisis and more. In the process, they’ve provided us with some light amongst all the darkness.

There have been so many songs inspired by the pandemic that it has spurred a genre known as “pandemic pop.” These tunes range from the humorous (Randy Newman’s “Stay Away”) to the heartfelt (Bono’s “Let Your Love Be Known”), but there have not been a lot of pandemic love songs.

Jamie Kent, a musician formerly from Northampton who now resides in Nashville, helped fill that void. He recently released the song ”Alone,” a country-rock tune that is driven by acoustic guitar and piano and even features a string section. It’s an upbeat, infectious song that one wouldn’t necessarily think was inspired by a pandemic.

Kent wrote the song with his producer, Marti Frederiksen, while in lockdown. Frederiksen, who has an impressive resume that includes producing everyone from Ozzy Osborne to Faith Hill, has co-written songs with Aerosmith and provided the vocals for the band Stillwater in the movie “Almost Famous.”

“We wrote it via Zoom — my first time doing it that way — and then I recorded my guitar and vocals in my home studio, sent them to him, and he recorded everything else at his,” Kent recently told Sounds Local. “Definitely a different process than normal, but seems fitting for a pandemic love song I suppose.”

Lyrics like “The world might be ending/I ain’t got a clue/I’d rather be alone with you/The moments slow and steady/Like hands upon a clock/You find out what really matters/ When you’re forced to stop” reflect on how some people were able to revisit their priorities once they stepped back from their busy lives.

The video that accompanies the song shows a montage of people moving on with their lives despite the difficult situation they are living through — celebrating weddings, births, baby’s first steps and, of course, cute dogs.

“I had the idea for the video, as I was getting more and more overwhelmed by the news every day,” said Kent, who was recently named one of Nashville’s 25 most fascinating people of 2020 by Nashville Lifestyles Magazine. “It dawned on me that there are still so many silver lining moments to be found in these tough times. Moments of mindfulness that are important to remember. Re-discovering love, extra time with kids, walks around the block, baking sourdough.”

Kent was noticing these moments in his own life and wanted to find a way to remind people of those moments in theirs, so he put a call out to fans to share some of them. The response was incredible. 

“I only wish we could have fit everything in the video, but it really was an inspiration for me and has helped me stay positive as the live music industry stays on hold,” he said.

“Alone” will appear on his upcoming album, which will be released in the spring of 2021, but look for a couple of more singles to be released before that time. His last album, “All American Mutt,” debuted at Number 16 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and number three on the Heatseeker Charts.

 Kent was scheduled for a homecoming show at the Iron Horse Music Hall this past spring but it was postponed until April 2021. 

“Alone,” can be viewed at jamiekent.com

Lake Street Dive,“Making Do”

Lake Street Dive isn't a local band, but they have close ties to the area. The band, which was originally formed in Boston, was discovered by Jim Olsen, of Signature Sounds, who signed them to his label after seeing them perform before a handful of people at The Rendezvous in Turners Falls.

Lake Street Dive recently dropped a new single called “Making Do” that’s a cry to action in regards to the current climate crisis. The song is a departure for the band, which is known for its upbeat jazzy pop music. The group doesn’t usually delve into social issues. “Making Do” is a mid-tempo tune with a pulsating guitar line, steady drumbeat and a blazing guitar solo in the middle. Price’s vocals are as strong as ever and her bandmates chime in on layered harmonies.

“Making Do” is about the world that future generations are inheriting.

“We are all concerned about what is happening to our planet, so the song explores what arises when we consider both our role in it and our responsibility to address it,” said the band in a statement about the song. “Hopefully, it comes through as a rallying cry to do the best you can with what you have.”

An accompanying video shows a variety of people holding up signs with the lyrics written on them. If you look close, you’ll catch some familiar local aces like musicians June Millington and Naia Kete. Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey also appears.

“Making Do” can be viewed at lakestreetdive.com.

Pamela Means andThe Reparations Liveat Northfire

Pamela Means and her bandmates, Cinamon Blair on bass and vocals and I-Shea on percussion and vocals, recorded this six-song disc at Northfire Recordings in Amherst.

Produced by Garrett Sawyer, this recording was completed a couple of years ago, but Means, who is a resident of the Pioneer Valley, is just releasing it now.

As it turns out, with the election right around the corner and the ascent of the Black Lives Matter movement, the time is right for these politically charged songs. The opening track, “Impeachment Now,” sums up Means’ view on our current president. “The “President Is incompetent/An embarrassment/Impeachment Now,” she angrily sings throughout the song. The force of her words is further boosted by I-Shea’s percussion.

As a biracial woman, Means has said she’s dealt with racism all her life and she tackles the subject on a couple of the songs here. “Everything dark comes out in the light/We keep marching on but our souls are tired/Here we are again, here we are again/A black man gone ‘cause of the color of his skin,” she sings on “Color of the Skin,” which is accented by harmonies from her bandmates. “James Madison” is about slavery and includes direct quotes from the fourth president of the United States. “Hands Up,” is a song about gun violence that also highlights Means’ impressive guitar work.

Means is a gifted guitarist, singer and songwriter. “Live at Northfire” is a compelling piece of music with some powerful messages. Whether you are a longtime fan of Means or a newcomer, “Live at Northfire” is deserving of your time. 

“Live at Northfire” is available in both a clean and explicit version. Visit pamelameans.bandcamp.com to purchase.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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