Justin Roberts, multi-award winner and Grammy nominee for his 2010 album Jungle Gym, is most widely known for his power pop sounds and rockin’ family concerts. With his latest release, Lullaby, Roberts moves in a new direction by putting together an original collection of ballads that will melt your heart. Between the accompaniment of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and hushed tones of Roberts’ voice, the sounds are divine. Roberts composed and arranged the songs himself while his producer, Liam Davis, added the finishing touches to give the album a 70’s soft rock vibe. Lullaby also features backup vocalists from the Chicago production of the musical Hairspray, as well as other members of the Not Ready For Naptime Players.
Throughout the album Roberts conjures up vivid images as he strings words and phrases together in a masterful way. With songs like the guided meditation of “Count Them As They Go,” Roberts taps into our imaginations by inviting us to envision a picturesque landscape while also encouraging us to let all our worries of the day just slip away. In the Paul Simon inspired “Nothing On You,” Roberts transforms the sounds of the pouring rain into a perfect sounding symphony “…as it strikes the sidewalk with its exquisite small talk” and later likens a flock of geese to “fleeting notes and rests that stretch across the sky.”
Then there is delicate the sound of the pizzicato cello as it tiptoes its way through “Heart of Gold,” a song which I play so much that it’s almost unfair to the rest of the album. A similar arrangement, accented by triumphant horns, bounces its way through the comforting “Polar Bear,” a song that expresses encouragement and devotion as Roberts provides the security blanket reassurance of “if you’re in trouble please know that I’m there/but don’t forget that I’m your Polar Bear.”
As the album winds down, we are treated to “Wild One,” which never fails to make me shed a tear or two as it touches upon the fleeting innocence of childhood and how special the moments during bedtime are. It’s a Van Morrison sounding R&B number with soulful backup vocals, adding to the sentimentality of the song. This one is sure to hit a few sweet spots with its literary references intertwined with fantastic wordplay as Roberts brings us into a scene between mother and child as they decide which story to read at bedtime. Although I so often look forward to that time of night, anxious to unwind on my own, it’s also the time I cherish the most as my daughter grabs her snuggle blankets, sucks her thumb and curls up in her bed, eagerly awaiting the comfort of a good story.
Lullaby is a stunning album and one that will definitely fulfill its categorical promise as it soothes your beating heart and lulls you and your little one to sleep. It’s also perfect for those times where everyone needs a little change of pace. Highly Recommended for ages 0 – 5 but would fare just as well for adults.
I had the privilege of interviewing Justin regarding his approach to Lullaby which you can read here.
Below you can listen to “Polar Bear,” “Nothing On You” and “Easier To Do.” Lullaby is available for purchase and digital download at all media outlets, including Amazon and Roberts’ Merchandise page. Also worthy of checking out are books and illustrations by the exceptionally talented Alison Jay who designed the packaging for Lullaby.