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The Blind Boys of Alabama come to UCA





8 p.m. South on Main. Sold out.

The Oxford American magazine's annual music issue is out on newsstands Dec. 1, and this year focuses on the state of Georgia. There are features on the Allman Brothers, OutKast, Little Richard, the Athens music scene, swing music pioneer Fletcher Henderson, country music pioneer Fiddlin' John Carson, Janelle Monáe, Blind Willie McTell, Killer Mike and Johnny Mercer, plus less known but seminal moments from the state's music history, like the Cabbagetown indie rock scene of the 1990s and the Savannah metal scene of recent years. (I contributed to the issue, as did former Times associate editor David Ramsey). There's also a 25-song CD compilation. On Dec. 3, the magazine will celebrate the issue's release with an "evening of Georgia music in the round," featuring the Indigo Girls and Patterson Hood (who also contributed to the issue). Hood will also perform and speak at the Clinton Presidential Center's Great Hall at 6 p.m. Friday, as part of the center's Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series.


'A Christmas Story' and 'White Christmas'

Various times and venues.

One thing you may not know about 1983's "A Christmas Story" is that it's one of the only holiday family classics based on material that originally appeared in Playboy. The stories were by a post-war radio personality named Jean Shepherd, who adapted them into a mid-'60s best-seller I've never read, "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash." A kind of proto-Garrison Keillor, Shepherd was friends with Shel Silverstein and performed spoken-word narration on the Charles Mingus album "The Clown" ("He really formed my entire comedic sensibility," Jerry Seinfeld once said of him). All of this helps explain the movie's darkly ironic tone, which portrays Christmas as vaguely sad and usually disappointing — possibly why the film has persisted as long as it has. It screens at the Ron Robinson Theater at 7 p.m. Friday, $5.

"White Christmas," the 1954 musical starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney (George Clooney's aunt), takes the exact opposite approach tonally, embracing un-ironic sentiment and spectacle. The film is built from the songs of Irving Berlin — a Russian immigrant who wrote the bulk of the Great American Songbook, including "God Bless America" — most notably the title track, which Berlin wrote in 1940, while living in a hotel in La Quinta, Calif. He'd stay up all night writing songs there, and about this one — according to the apocryphal story — told his secretary, "I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!" This turned out to be correct, basically: "White Christmas" is the best-selling single of all time. The film screens at Riverdale 10 Cinema at 7 p.m. Tuesday, $5.



9 p.m. Juanita's. $12.

Jake and Jamin Orrall grew up in Nashville, Tenn., the son of songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall, a journeyman country songwriter who has penned hits for artists from Reba McEntire to Taylor Swift. In high school they formed a band called JEFF the Brotherhood, which has released a new album at a rate of about one per year since the early aughts. Their resume is a puzzle: They've worked with Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach, Jethro Tull flautist Ian Anderson, the Insane Clown Posse and Jack White's Third Man Records. They mostly play catchy, anthemic garage punk that seems unusually well produced for the genre (you get the sense that they have one foot in the mainstream recording industry and the other far out of it). It's upbeat and lightweight and pretty good: "The whole album was a very stoned album," Jake said of their new record, "Wasted on the Dream," in a recent interview with Stereogum. "We smoked a lot of pot in the studio — constantly, basically ... . A lot of times I would get, like, a little too stoned, you know?" Yeah, Jake, we know.



3 p.m. Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA. $27-$40.

The Blind Boys of Alabama started as a group of 9-year-old students at the Alabama Institute for the Blind in Talladega, Ala., in 1944. All but one of them was blind, and they performed mostly for soldiers stationed in Southern training camps during World War II. After the war ended, they began touring the gospel circuit in earnest, and recorded their first single in 1948, "I Can See Everybody's Mother But Mine." You can find a video of the group singing "Too Close To Heaven" in the early '60s: an impassioned lead singer who shakes his fist down at his waist, backed by an electric guitarist and four other singers who make effortless, unusual harmonies that are sometimes elaborate chords and sometimes just percussive waves of volume. During this era, they played at benefits for Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since then — losing and gaining members over the years — they've played the White House several times, won some Grammys, collaborated with Ben Harper, Mavis Staples, Billy Preston, Solomon Burke, Lou Reed (they played the Velvet Underground's "Jesus" with him once on David Letterman, a moment of real, televised cognitive dissonance) and a lot of others. They recorded the cover of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" that served as the theme song for the first season of "The Wire," and their most recent album, "I'll Find a Way," was produced, for whatever reason, by Bon Iver.



8 p.m. Juanita's. $10.

I'd never heard of the New Zealand band Like a Storm before this week, before noticing that they were playing at Juanita's on Sunday and figuring I should do my diligence as a hack entertainment journalist. I'm admitting this because it helps explain something very important about the strangeness of this band, a strangeness that is informed by their New Zealand heritage, but which stands apart from it. Every week I look into a long succession of band names that, more often than not, turn out to be Americana singer-songwriters from Texas or Tulsa, or post-grunge alt-rock bands from Tallahassee or the suburbs of Atlanta, or dubstep DJs who used to play in semi-obscure emo bands. All good fun and good business, but let us admit it can lead to a degree of disillusionment about the potential for surprise or invention in the realm of live music. Then along comes Like a Storm, the Wikipedia page for which describes the group as "best known for combining heavy baritone guitar riffs and hard rock songs with didgeridoo." So I pulled Like a Storm up on YouTube and here's what I found: exactly that. The video for its song "Love the Way You Hate Me" begins as you'd expect — the band wears sleeveless black shirts, leather pants, with "Edward Scissorhands" haircuts, and seems to be playing on the set of "The Matrix." "You say I'm a freak, I say I'm free," sings the band's lead singer. Standard sad-sack stuff, until about 2:13, when the lights dim, the rhythm section drops away, and the singer begins very capably playing a didgeridoo (the centuries-old wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians). The other videos follow this formula rigidly. See this band, in other words. See it because its members had the boldness to envision the new. They saw a staleness in their approach, perhaps, asked themselves what could be done differently, and the answer they came up with — poignantly, absurdly — was didgeridoo.


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