Randy Newman. If you close your eyes and listen to Randy Newman, you might think you are listening to Ray Charles's brother. You might think that, that is, unless you listen to the words. Newman is not exactly the piano player Charles is, and the blues he sings are a white man's blues. But Newman is probably the most novel and perhaps the most intelligent lyricist cutting records today. Occasional songs, such as "Mama Told Me Not to Come," have been popularized in dessicated AM hits by other performers. But nothing is like listening to this wit and wisdom in the original. Anyone who can sing "Cleveland, city of magic..." has got to have imagination. Sunday, February 24 at The Performance Center I, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets for all shows are available at The Performance Center every day after 4 p.m.
Ellen Mcllwaine. Bonnie Raitt once said she did not practice her guitar because she did not want to be considered simply "the best girl guitarist." However you judge Mcllwaine, she clearly practices her bottleneck. Through Sunday at Passim. Call 492-7679 for information.
Folk Notes. My other recommendations for the weekend are all folk. The Dillards, a fine country group, and whiz banjo player John Hartford will be at The Performance Center II through Saturday, February 23, 8 and 10:30 p.m....If you have ever heard a tall guitarist accompanied by a curly-haired fiddler with a lightening bow playing and singing traditional music in Forbes Plaza, you have heard half of the group Water. If the other half is half as good, their concert of bluegrass, spiritual music, and ballads with Linda Neustadt, Rob Joel, and Al Firth this weekend should be a stomper. Saturday, February 23, at St. Paul's School, 8 p.m., $2. Party for everyone afterwards.
The New York Dolls. The New York Dolls are here this weekend if you happen to be interested. If, like me, you happen not to be interested, they will still be here. They are playing with Elliot Murphy, a much-heralded new singer. Through Saturday, February 23, at The Performance Center 1, 8 and 10:30 p.m.