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Jarrod Lawson

The line on Jarrod Lawson’s “About” section on Facebook stands out immediately, describing the singer-songwriter as a “Promoter of Peace & Compassion.” That must have been quite a task in 2020.

“It hasn’t been hard,” Lawson laughs. “To be honest, it’s almost been easier in a way because I feel the world needs that more than ever.”

He’s right, but between a contentious U.S. presidential election, social justice protests and the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the world is moving in the opposite direction of peace and compassion.

Enter Lawson and his second album Be The Change, a breath of fresh air that came right on time in October, not just for fans of the Oregon native, but for the man himself, who, like his peers in the music business, took a crushing hit when COVID-19 shut the world down. …


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Nina Diaz (photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/ninadiazsolo)

If there was a silver lining to the world turning upside down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was that Nina Diaz got her mojo back.

“I love to sing and perform and as I’m editing videos for things, I’m actually liking myself,” she said. “I had a moment where I looked at myself and I’m like, ‘I’m cool.’ (Laughs) That’s the first time I ever said that to myself in all my years of being in Girl in a Coma, all the videos I’ve done, everything. …


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Marc Urselli

There was no coronavirus vacation for Marc Urselli. Well, maybe a week’s worth of catching up on social media and television for the Grammy award-winning producer and engineer. But that was about it.

“The first week in March, I was very unmotivated, sitting on the couch, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram,” he said. “Then I was like, this needs to end, and I put away the phone and started making music again.”

He hasn’t stopped since.

“Business is slower, I won’t lie, but I try to stay occupied and keep myself busy with interesting projects.”

One of the most interesting in 2020 was Urselli’s work with the late, great Hal Willner on Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T.Rex. A 26-song collection featuring covers of Bolan’s songs by an eclectic array of artists from Kesha and Joan Jett to Elton John, U2 and Perry Farrell, just to name a few, the album is a celebration of Bolan, but also a project Willner was determined to do justice to before he passed in April. …


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Gangstagrass

I don’t know if Dan Whitener and his colleagues in the bluegrass / hip hop band Gangstagrass want to consider themselves prophets, but a listen of their brilliant new album No Time For Enemies does make you feel that it was written in the heart of a 2020 that has shook up the world from more than one direction, even if it was largely in the bank before its July release.

“We recorded the first three songs fully in the studio in late-January, early-February,” said the vocalist / banjo player. “So we got those first three songs and those were the singles, so people heard those and those were all ready to go. And the rest of the album we recorded all from lockdown in our own homes. Most of the album was influenced by the time that we were in. One song in particular, ‘Do Better,’ has a guest verse that came in from Randall Wyatt and he even has a line in there, ‘Please hold your laughter, unless you have a really funny meme about this whole disaster.’ …


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Swamp Dogg (photo by David McMurry)

Let’s get this out of the way right at the start. If you listen to “Billy” on Swamp Dogg’s latest album, Sorry You Couldn’t Make It, and your eyes don’t start to get a little misty, well, you may not have a heart.

“It’ll bring you down,” said Mr. Jerry Williams Jr. aka Swamp Dogg, in the understatement of 2020.

To be able to garner that kind of reaction these days is a rarity, but Williams is a rare individual in the music biz these days, a true craftsman with the ability to work magic with his songwriting and voice in whatever genre he chooses to step into. …


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Whitney McClain

It’s no secret that in today’s music world, all is not always what it seems. That’s a tip of the hat to technology and what it can do to make singers sound a lot better than they are in reality.

So it’s always nice when one of the real ones does something, not out of any malice, but maybe, just maybe to show what it really means to have legit pipes. That was the case on July 15, when Ms. …


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AJ Smith

Listen to AJ Smith on his latest single, “Billy Joel”, and you wouldn’t be too out of line to suggest that the singer-songwriter was born like this, gifted to deliver tunes that get in your head and stay there, accompanied by memorable performances both vocally and musically.

You would also be wrong.

Sure, the soon-to-be Nashville resident has talent. That’s clear. But getting the most out of that talent comes from a couple things easily forgotten in so many walks of life these days, and that’s work ethic and respect for his craft.

The work ethic part came easy thanks to his family. …


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Matt Lovell

What would you think of in the moments before you died?

We can all speculate, but no one has ever come back to tell us. That’s the nature of dying.

Unless you’re Matt Lovell, who took a bullet to the chest in the middle of a carjacking in 2017 and lived to tell about it. And as he looked for someone to help him after the Nashville shooting, his thoughts were clearer than he ever could have imagined.

“Two things were on my mind — one was I might not see my mom again and the other was, I might never release this damn record.” …


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Doug Clifford

It’s bad enough that Doug Clifford is one of the great rock drummers of all-time. Now he had to go and clean his garage to make us all look bad. And not only that, while cleaning he found some old tapes from the mid-80s that turned into the recently released Magic Window album.

Jeez, Doug.

“I can’t take the credit for that,” laughs Clifford when it comes to the cleaning the garage part of this tale. …


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Emily Cavanagh (Photo by Chris Vernale)

I like Emily Cavanagh. It would be impossible not to, as she may be one of the nicest folks you’ll encounter in or out of the music business.

How nice? In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the singer-songwriter’s gigs and festival dates put on pause while she’s in Chicago and her band is in New York City, her first thoughts about living on lockdown aren’t about her situation, but about everyone else’s and what she can do to help them.

“It’s the weirdest time ever,” said Cavanagh, who appreciates the opportunity to be back in her childhood home for the past few months with her parents, but who also knows there are so many who aren’t as lucky. And she’s seen the stories on the local news every night of those who died alone, unable to say their last goodbyes to their family and friends. …

About

Thomas Gerbasi

Editorial Director for Zuffa (UFC), Sr. editor for BoxingScene, and writer for Gotham Girls Roller Derby, Boxing News, and The Ring...WOOOO!

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