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Jonathan Butler: Living My Dream

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If the album title isn’t enough of a giveaway, be assured that Jonathan Butler is one optimistic, blissful fellow right now. “Living My Dream,” the title track of the South African-born guitarist/vocalist’s 22nd studio album, is a naked declaration of contentment and good-naturedness that’s increasingly rare in these troubled times. Emerging from a Stevie Wonder-esque faux-scat vocal intro, Butler, in his even-tempered but enthusiastic manner, sings, “I’ve been high, I’ve been low, everywhere in between,” then goes on to elucidate why he’s on top of the world. Lightly funky in a ’70s CTI kind of way, it’s bright and soothing and hard not to like, even if it lacks even the slightest bit of edge.

But that’s OK. No one looks to Jonathan Butler to storm the gates, and what Living My Dream lacks in fire it more than makes up for with well-crafted, immaculately performed and arranged crowd-pleasers. From its opening track, an update of Butler’s early-career “African Breeze”-given a foot-flapping, chirpy arrangement anchored by Butler’s fleet, nylon-string soloing-to the reflective, dreamy closer “A Prayer,” this is feel-good music and nothing but feel-good music.

A couple of guests provide highlights: The late George Duke, featured on piano on the summer-night-sultry “Be Still,” written by the pair, meshes sympathetically with Butler’s guitar as the quasi-bossa nova unfolds, and Marcus Miller, who appears both on that track and the next, “Let There Be Light,” brings a depth that’s not always there on some of the smoother tracks. J

Originally Published