Sometimes blessings are in disguise, and we don’t quite realize them in the moment. Such is the case with the creation of Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir’s new debut full-length album, Pictures in the Dark, which officially hit streaming services today and premiered on Music Mecca.

The day was March 7th and the year was 2020. This was the first official show of Americana roots-rockers Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir, a band of friends who after years of playing cover songs together in local taverns (when frontman Jon Tyler Wiley was off the road with his band Melodime at the time) decided to utilize their impeccable chemistry to perform original songs under this moniker. Around the time they experienced the magic of playing that first show as a new original project, the band booked a tour to take their electric show on the road.

However, the universe had other plans, as their tour – like everybody else’s – was canceled due to the pandemic. All of the momentum and excitement the band had built vanquished before it had a chance to flourish.

But there was a silver lining.

Since everyone was living in lockdown, Wiley was determined to take this time to pen new songs for the band to learn, play, and eventually record. This would result in a string of singles, debuting with their barn burnin’ juke joint track, “Laura Lee.”

And today, after four arduous years, that album – Pictures in the Dark – has now seen the light of day.

The 8-track album ironically kicks off with “The Ending of the End,” the band’s lead single from summer of 2023. “This is definitely one of the more snarkier songs I’ve ever written,” Wiley quips. “It’s all gallows humor, written about waiting for the end of the world. I wrote this song in the middle of 2020, and it was my way of recognizing the pickle we were in that year, and making peace with whatever was going to happen.”

Like a shotgun blast of adrenaline, the high-speed track “.45” follows, displaying the band’s unmistakable rock n’ roll chops. Inspired by the story in Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” Wiley always thought there was “a rub” between the darkness of that story and the upbeat music, so he opted to tell it in a more modern setting with the music being as frantic and dark as the lyrics.

The gentle and tender side of Wiley and co. shine in the third track, “Coffee, Wine”, led by piano and Wiley’s gritty yet soothing vocals. The song came about after Wiley binge-listened to George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and loved the idea of having a song with a plot twist in the lyrics.

“Flowers” follows, and while maintaining the same mellow easy-on-the-ears energy, the influence behind the song is the unimaginable grief and sadness of a second miscarriage he and his wife endured. Following the event, friends had sent flowers to them. “Sitting on our couch, looking at all the flowers, it brought me back to memories of other times of grieving, and the song came out very quickly,” Wiley says.

After finishing the record, fiddle player and guitarist Eddie Dickerson would depart from the band, but other than his instrumental offerings, he also wrote the March 2023 single, “Full-Handed.” It tells the story of a child coping with a divorce, written from the child’s perspective. The child uses art as an escape to get through the difficult time of the divorce’s aftermath.

“Oh, Death” follows, which couldn’t be further in sound from the traditional Appalachian folk song made popular by Ralph Stanley. (“O Death”) The upbeat sounding almost indie pop groove is indeed about the end, as it was written in the thick of the uncertainty of 2020 when many were faced with their own mortality and those around them. “I was thinking about what I wanted the rest of my life to look like, and this song came as a result,” Wiley says.

In a day and age where most of us are lost in the haze of the instant gratification information age we live in, the band hopes to remind us to stop and sniff the daisies on their February single, “Mission.”

Chock full of vivid imagery,“Mission” serves as a message and reminder that’s never outdated and more pertinent than ever: put down the phone and live in the moment. With a piano and fiddle intro that sounds like it could be a lost track from The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, the song is an earworm from the jump, soaking into the psyche with its uplifting anti-machine pro-human message.

Timing is everything, and this is not lost on Wiley and the band, as their final song on the album and first single of 2024, “Song of Moving On,” offers hopeful sentiments to those forging through relentless trials of adversity. The song is booming and anthemic, resonating within your bones. ”This is a song of hope / Sung by a man defeated / A man grown tired of the joke,” Wiley sings in earnest, guiding the track with pure conviction.

Lead singer and songwriter Jon Tyler Wiley’s first memories were looking at album artwork from his parents’ albums, which included The Allman Brothers, Santana, Tom Petty, and other classic rock legends. This fascination led him to get his first guitar at age 10, and at age 23 he was doing music full-time. By the time he was 30, he’d played guitar and mandolin for artists like Stephen Kellogg and Sister Hazel along with conducting his own musical projects.

With the moniker ‘The Virginia Choir’ chosen, Wiley’s goal was always to harness different musical elements from the state of Virginia and combine them into one sound: rock from the cities, bluegrass and country from the rural communities, and Americana/singer-songwriter sounds from the college towns.

With influences that shape their sound ranging from Springsteen to Wilco to Dawes and much in between, Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir have carved out their own unique Americana roots-rock sound, and Pictures in the Dark aims to prove a pivotal moment in the band’s trajectory into the burgeoning Americana scene.

Pictures in the Dark was mixed by Doug Ross, and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Hans DeKline.

Jon Tyler Wiley and His Virginia Choir have a string of shows lined up after the release of Pictures in the Dark, including an album release show in Vienna, Virginia, at Jammin Java April 5th.

SOURCE: Official Bio