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  • Jonathan Widran

DEAN FRIEDMAN, American Lullaby

If your skepticism about fake news has prompted you to shut down your senses and not pay attention to the sociopolitical issues of the world for fear of ingesting skewed points of views and falsehoods, never fear. Some 45 years after cementing his so-called one hit wonder status with the whimsical “Ariel,” singer-songwriter, troubadour and commentator and observational musical comedian extraordinaire Dean Friedman is knocking at our doors, as incisively insightful and delightfully witty and quirky as ever on his ambitious, fun yet often poignant and pointed epic album American Lullaby.

From the haunting reflective piano ballad “American Lullaby” through the romantic glimmer of hope (complete with peaceful trumpet and nature sounds) he offers via the lush and atmospheric “On a Summer Night,” the 12 track collection rolls like a joyfully schizophrenic stylistic romp through a multitude of genres (jazz, pop, blues, acoustic folk, comedic cabaret), creating a pinballesque bounce effect but somehow arriving at a narrative flow amidst and addressing the chaos of life in the U.S. and world these past six years.

No subject is spared the sling of his poetic barbs, as Friedman artfully tackles the pandemic (“Wear a Mask,” “Halfway Normal World”), the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian Interference in the 2016 election (“The Russians Are Coming”), a hopeful twist on the 2016 election itself (“Ridin’ With Biden”), political ignorance (“Welcome to Stupid Town”), climate change (“Sorry ‘bout That”).

While trying to make sense of the world, he inserts a few lighthearted ditties to remind us that even amidst potential catastrophe, there is hope and humor – including the swingin’ jazz rap “Too Much Stuff” (about his and probably also our own tendency to hoard silly collectibles) and the snappy and hilarious, trombone-fired “Just Another Birthday Song,” which we should probably all start memorizing and singing instead of the tiresome “Happy Birthday to You.”

Amidst the hipster wordplay and all over the map musical vibes is the cheerful and uplifting, jazz-folk gem “The Swing of Things,” which chronicles a hopeful awakening after a period of malaise and depression. His humorous take on so many of the problems we face is indicative of his ultimate ai to lift, inspire and look forward, rather than wallow in gloom and doom. He feels its incumbent on those of us who are still around to heal our wounded world and celebrate wonder.

To that end, he offers fuel for the challenging journey through the daily muck of life on “I Wish You Joy,” whose chipper, brass inflected chorus he addresses to someone who’s feeling all too hopeless: “I Wish You Joy,” including laughter, elation, delight and jubilation. So even in the midst of despair, Friedman is there to remind us that if we clear our minds, we’re sure to find miracles everywhere.

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