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"Strange American Dream," from Rayland Baxter's forthcoming album, Wide Awake, was written around the time of the 2016 election. Impeccably produced by Butch Walker, with Cage The Elephant's Nick Bockrath on guitar, Dr. Dog's Eric Slick on drums, Aaron Embry on keyboards and Baxter on bass, it's a song, Baxter wrote in a statement, about America's turmoil.
"I was living in the middle of a cornfield in Kentucky when I wrote it," says Baxter "The TV in the kitchen was stuck on the news channel for three months. I couldn't help but eavesdrop and take notes."
With the notes Baxter took, he turned them into lyrics that captured his mindset of the moment; somewhere between a sense of childlike wonder and disbelief at the good and evil he saw as he watched the news cycle unfold around him. He sings about "all of the sensitive people screaming from their yards," and "my neighbor down the street with the pretty face and the rubber jaw has plenty there to eat but she don't share with anyone." Over a piano driven ear worm of a song that sounds like a distant cousin to The Beatles' "Lady Madonna," Baxter sings:
This ain't nothing like
What I'd thought it'd be like
When I was just a kid
I drew dinosaurs fightin wars
Behind the doors I reinforced with
Red yellow and green.
From all the cameras in front of us
I couldn't tell you what it is I see
So I close my eyes and realize
I'm alive deep inside this
Strange American Dream.
Wide Awake comes out July 13 via ATO Records.