Aug. 14, 2015 10:41 AM

Randy Newman is a codger, a stiff-lipped sloth weighed by his sarcasm and misanthropy bitching about it in a put-upon 9th ward singing voice. His turn-of-the-millennium image has generally been understood as dopey, Pixar-wholesome and antiquated, a tragic circumstance for a man capable of such incisive human comment. God, it’s going to be great to have him at the James Devin Moncus Theater for Acadiana Center for the Arts' fifth season of performances. Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann announced the grab via a teaser of the upcoming season, one that includes blue-eyed Shoals outfit St. Paul and the Broken Bones of Birmingham, and a Louisiana Crossroads mash up featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

In the spirit of shared enthusiasm, I’ll choose not to hide my un-journalistic adoration of Newman’s early '70s work. While “Louisiana 1927” is a fine track, and Good Old Boys itself a fine record, I came to Newman by way of Harry Nilsson, himself an early fan of Newman’s songwriting. Newman made a cult name for himself in the '60s and early '70s as a songwriter, meaning you can find a lot of his material produced and performed by more auralgenic singers like this track featuring Irma Thomas and the entirety of Nilsson Sings Newman. Have you been poisoned by Family Guy? Can’t get past the avuncularity in his voice? I suggest starting there as a cure. Nilsson’s performance of “I’ll Be Home” is proof of an anthropomorphic God, who wants very badly for people to appreciate Randy Newman.

Once you're past all that superficiality and you’ve got it through your thick philistine skull that Newman is a genius, listen to “God's Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)”, which I will go on record as saying is the most accurate portrayal of Yahweh’s attitude toward man (if you bracket off the New Testament). It’s hysterically funny, heartbreaking, chilling and provocative. Newman at his best.

Newmaniacs, as no one calls fans of Randy Newman, will have to wait until March 2016 to see the “Short People” troubadour, but they have a helluva line-up of distractions to appease them in the meantime, including the aforementioned performance by evangelical soul madness of Birmingham’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones. These guys have done a few dates opening for The Rolling Stones, performed on countless morning and evening talk shows and pretty much obliterated every crowd they’ve encountered.

“I think this is the biggest coup of the year for us,” says Wuestemann. “I absolutely love this band and they have had a meteoric rise in the scene over the past two years. It’s modern Southern soul at it’s best. Incredible vocals and horns, a groove as tight as a drum head and a depth of feeling grounded in the church background of the band’s founding."

There’s white-collaredness to their outfit, given that they’re all youngish white dudes, but front man Paul Janeway’s church background and sweaty soul call dismisses any pretense that his soul is appropriated. Their performances are simply electric. Check out this cover of an otherwise forgettable Paul McCartney track “Let Me Roll It.” The Nov. 14 show will be presented as a standing room event — Wuestemann’s a mensch for untethering the audience from the stodginess of theater chairs. You can’t watch a soul revue sitting down.

Hopefully, that’s plenty of material to whet your appetite for an outstanding performance season at the AcA. Wuestemann plans to release a full schedule once all performances are confirmed and dates are set in stone. But from the list I’ve seen, we’re in for a doozy.


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