Isolation Drills: Paul Wilkinson

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Wilkinson: Just when I thought the music business couldn’t get any stranger. 2019 was my busiest music year yet, and everything was rolling into 2020 just as planned.

My uncle had lent me a pedal steel last fall. I thought, “It would take a global pandemic for me to learn that thing.”

I was still working on my first solo record. 

Instead of playing just one annual show at the Kennett Flash, our Bob Dylan Band—Highway 61 Revival—was booking more gigs throughout the summer.

“Hello, Paul?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“2020 here. You’ll need to reboot your system and start over.”


Highway 61 Revival went into home-recording mode. Dan Bower, Tim Celfo, Brad Hinton and Ben Smith. Quite a crew. We managed to knock out a five-song EP, available here, with another five-song EP in the works. We played a drive-in show in Malvern put on by Point Entertainment/People’s Light Theatre and one more at Bear Creek Resort in Macungie.

I decided to wrap up 400 Bears, my first solo record. For fun, we started remote recording of a folk tune, “Take This Hammer.” This time with Brad Hinton, Luke Ferracone, Scott Coulter, Charlie Muench and Glenn Ferracone. It wound up being a nine-minute experience that closes out the album perfectly. Check it out here.

The pedal-steel guitar. Wowee. What an instrument. With pandemic time and pandemic patience, I have been able to squeeze some nice sounds out of it. What helped me was slow and steady practice. Repetition. The truth is, you need a movie, not too good that you stop practicing to pay attention and not too bad that you stop to change it. A little action in it to keep you pumped up—and voila!

Shout out to the real superheroes—frontline workers and educators—who hold it all together.