A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
Hank Williams, "The Garden Spot Program." Recorded in 1950 in the broadcast studios of KSIB, Creston, Iowa, these performances haven't been heard in more than 60 years. Out Tuesday.
Ex-Cult, "Midnight Passenger." This sounds like the soundtrack to an 8 mm movie made by a film student about a punk-rock road trip. Raw, jumpy and dark. Out Tuesday.
Grandma Sparrow, "Grandma Sparrow & His Piddletractor Orchestra." The alter-ego of Joe Westerlund (of Califone, Megafaun, Gayngs and Mount Moriah) promises pop weirdness in what is described as a "psychedelic children's song-cycle for adults." Out Tuesday.
Mike Elias, Barely Brothers Records, St. Paul
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"Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill," Broadway. Five-time Tony-winning Broadway superstar Audra McDonald becomes Billie Holiday — vocally and dramatically — in this unsettling one-act about a nightclub performance in the final months of her drug- and booze-plagued life. A stunning, exacting performance.
"After Midnight," Broadway. TV stars Dulé Hill and Vanessa Williams (a role to be filled soon by Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole) may be the biggest names in the cast, but they are the least significant performers in this highly entertaining, fast-paced revue set in Harlem's Cotton Club in the 1930s. The dancing — tap, break and ensemble (especially five guys in a tight unison line) — is invigorating; the musicianship of the 16-piece orchestra is outstanding, and the singing, especially Tony-nominated Adriane Lenox on "Women Be Wise," is period-perfect and passionate.
Cyndi Lauper with Rosie O'Donnell and Liza Minnelli, Barclays Center. Opening for Cher, Lauper pulled two of her famous friends from the audience to sing backup on a fun but hardly girlish "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Only in Brooklyn. One of the best features of Barclays Center, America's newest and supposedly state-of-the-art arena, is permanent pin-spot lighting from the rafters shining on the aisles during the darkness of concerts.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune