Twin Cities music vets Chan Poling, John Munson and Steve Roehm began reinventing themselves and their favorite songs as the jazz-pop vehicle the New Standards in 2005, and their star-studded holiday concerts became an instantaneous hit. For the sixth annual installment, they are dropping a jewel of a stocking stuffer. As hinted at by Alec Soth's bleak cover photo and the Kris Kristofferson-penned title track, the new album "Sunday Morning Coming Down" is not as cheery as the Standards' typical show, but its touching odes to lost loved ones are well-timed to the season. Among the highlights are a Dan Wilson-produced version of Beck's "The Golden Age," a snow-fluttery take on Tom Waits' "You're Innocent When You Dream" and escapist-vibed covers of Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" and Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go." There are a few fun ones, too, especially the gender-flipped Robyn remake, "Call Your Boyfriend." (8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., Fitzgerald Theater. $33 Fri.-Sat., $22 Sun.) Chris Riemenschneider

If you can't go to New York City to see the Rockettes, the Rockefeller Plaza tree and all those fabulous department-store windows, at least you can hear the Christmas sounds of the Big Apple courtesy of Manhattan Transfer. The vocalese-loving quartet has recorded two holiday collections on which they jazz up "Winter Wonderland" and other seasonal fare. (7 & 9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Dakota Jazz Club, $40-$75.) Jon Bream

Guitar wizard Billy McLaughlin, whose remarkable persistence in the face of a neuro-muscular disorder was chronicled in a recent public TV documentary, is celebrating the 10th season of his holiday ensemble SimpleGifts. The group finds McLaughlin surrounded by talented females, including Celtic music mainstay Laura MacKenzie on whistles and bagpipes, and singer Karen Paurus of Lili's Burlesque Revue. (7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., St. Stephen Lutheran Church, 8400 France Av. S., Bloomington. $15-$25. See for more shows.) Tom Surowicz

Two treasures of the Twin Cities scene, favorites from "A Prairie Home Companion" who are well-versed in classic jazz, swing, blues, folk and ragtime, Butch Thompson and Pat Donohue should need no introduction. What does need exposure is their new Red House album, "Vicksburg Blues," which is mostly a hard blues recording, showcasing gems from the genre's 78-rpm, acoustic era, though at least one romantic pop track sneaks onto the album -- the lovely, "If I Had You," on which piano great Thompson gets to use his other instrument, the clarinet. (7 p.m. Sun., Dakota, $20.) Surowicz

For their 2003 Christmas album, "Go Tell It on the Mountain," the Blind Boys of Alabama invited an odd-lot parade of guests, including George Clinton, Tom Waits, Solomon Burke, Michael Franti, Chrissie Hynde and Mavis Staples. But the guests weren't really necessary. If any harmonizing group knows how to celebrate yule favorites, it's the roof-raising Blind Boys. (7 p.m. Mon.-Tue., Dakota, $45.) Bream

Santa's all-time favorite helper, Elf Vez, is finally back in town to wish us all a "Merry Mex-Mas." There is simply no more fun all-around entertainer in rockabilly and roots-rock than El Vez. He's been a good little boy for many years, parodying Mr. Presley with wit, flair, boundless energy, hilarious patter and those sexy Elvettes. If you've been dreaming of a "Brown Christmas," this is the place to be. (7 p.m. Tue., First Avenue, $15.) Surowicz

Indie-folk charmer Sufjan Stevens has been intentionally goofy in the past (i.e., the cheerleader-accompaniment on his 2005 "Illinois" tour) and not so intentionally (his Orpheum Theatre show for the electroni-corny 2010 album "Age of Adz"). Thankfully, his current holiday-themed tour appears to be unabashedly based on cheese and good cheer. It's called -- ahem! -- "The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice," and if that doesn't sound like a total hoot, then how about the promise of a "Wheel of Fortune"-style spinning database of seasonal tunes? One thing Stevens is serious about, though, is this music, as evidenced by his fan-adored "Songs for Christmas" collections. (8:30 p.m. Wed., Mill City Nights. Sold out.) Riemenschneider

Fingerstyle guitar master Tim Sparks celebrates the 20th anniversary of his landmark solo version of "The Nutcracker Suite" with a reissue of the disc and a Guthrie show. Don't expect dancing toy soldiers, sugar plum fairies or any woodwinds, violins or percussion. This is the Tchaikovsky perennial at its most intimate. Read an interview in next Monday's Variety section. (7:30 p.m. Wed., Dowling Studio, Guthrie Theater, $25.) Surowicz

 Ably representing the younger generation of Twin Cities classic-jazz players, the Southside Aces put a New Orleans spin on Christmas standards on a new holiday album, "Santaphone." The disc has a surprising number of vocals -- not the band's strong Santa suit -- but the ensemble playing is spirited and savvy, a yuletide gumbo of clarinet, sousaphone, trombone, trumpet, guitar, drums and whimsy. (8 p.m. Thu., Minneapolis Eagles Club, $5. ) Surowicz


Dweezil Zappa retrained himself so he could play guitar just like his late father, Frank Zappa. After all, the purpose of Zappa Plays Zappa is to revisit Frank's inspired but out-there repertoire. Lately, though, Dweezil is letting more of his own guitar flavor (think Eddie Van Halen) sneak in. In any case, ZPZ offers a generous two hours-plus of the Rock Hall of Famer's melange of rock, jazz, classical and humor. (9 p.m. Fri., Mill City Nights, $27-$30.) Bream

Like summertime lakes and sleepy hometowns, Ol' Yeller is something you don't realize how much you missed until you soak up its comforts once again. The classic-sounding, guitar-jangly, Uncle Tupelo-meets-CCR trio is back from a half-decade hiatus, in which time frontman Rich Mattson returned to the Iron Range to start his rural Sparta Studio and form a noisier garage-rock band (the Tisdales), while drummer Keely Lane took up gigging in Nashville. They recently reconvened at Mattson's place to try out new songs, and lo and behold they wham-bammed an album that reiterates why they were one of the best-loved local bands of the early-'00s. Titled "Levels," it offers a few mellow acoustic gems between barnstorming rockers, and ends with one of the all-time best odes to the Twin Cities music scene, "Love to Rock." Mattson's new song partner, Germaine Gemberling, opens along with the Brothers Burn Mountain. (9:30 p.m. Fri., Lee's Liquor Lounge, $7.) Riemenschneider

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis aren't the only ones with a gay-rights anthem that's turning into a viral hit: Local folk-rock group the War Poets, led by scene vets Rex Haberman and Jenny Case, have garnered nearly 200,000 YouTube views with their video for "Close Enough." It's just one of many socially conscious, historically contextualized songs on the new Kevin Bowe-co-produced album, "Dulce et Decorum Est," which Haberman and Case will promote Friday at Bunker's with an expanded War Poets lineup that includes guitarist Dan Neale and Alicia Wiley on keys (10:30 p.m. Fri., Bunker's, $8.) Riemenschneider

Two brawny hard-rock bands with enough power ballads and good looks to attract female fans, too, 3 Doors Down and Daughtry roll through on a 19-city co-headlining tour. "Kryptonite"-heavy Mississippians 3DD have another track off the radio to play, "One Light," from their first greatest-hits collection (titled "Greatest Hits"; these guys keep it simple). "American Idol" alum Chris Daughtry and his band are still touring behind last year's gold record, "Break the Spell." P.O.D. of "Youth of the Nation" fame open. (8 p.m. Sat., Myth. All ages. $48.) Riemenschneider

German EDM wiz Boyz Noize has collaborated with the likes of Skrillex and our own P.O.S. (he's behind the title track, aka "Weird Friends," on "We Don't Even Live Here"). The producer/DJ is making his first U.S. headlining tour behind his third album, "Out of the Black," a heavy-hitting collection whose modern urban-beats formula ranges from a Snoop Dogg guest appearance to a Kraftwerk sample. He's appearing here with our own noisy boys Marijuana Deathsquads (featuring P.O.S.) and British beatmaker Doorly. (10 p.m. Sun., Myth. 18 & older. $25-$30.) Riemenschneider

Outstanding keyboard player Bruce Jackson has played in several famous Twin Cities combos (Ipso Facto, the Doug Maynard Band, Dr. Mambo's Combo, the New Primitives), toured the globe with Tracy Chapman, been a music teacher and piano tuner, and currently leads his own Moondogs88. He's also battled peritoneal mesothelioma since 2008, and the treatments often keep him offstage. So there's a big fundraiser featuring several of his bands, climaxing with a "grand finale jam." (3-8 p.m. Sun., Famous Dave's Uptown, $7.) Surowicz

 You know Chris Thile is a certifiable genius, don't you? Followers of Nickel Creek and now the Punch Brothers long have been well aware of Thile's gift, but this year the 31-year-old mandolinist/singer/songwriter received a $500,000 "genius grant" as a MacArthur Fellow. Expect the usual stunning picking, engaging vocals and awe-inspiring camaraderie from the genius and his progressive-bluegrass bros. Opening are the Milk Carton Kids, an L.A. Americana duo of considerable charm. (8:30 p.m. Wed., First Avenue, $25-$27.) Bream


An excellent guitarist better known for his ordinary singing, John Pizzarelli features light jazz renditions of rock and pop hits by the likes of Dion, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young on his latest album, "Double Exposure." They generally pale beside the originals, though tackling the Allman Brothers' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" was inspired, and gutsy. (7 & 9 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Dakota, $35-$45.) Surowicz


Kantorei was the name for musicians of a Protestant German court. The Twin Cities a cappella chamber chorus that adopted the moniker embodies the nobility of its ancient forbears. With "Celebrating the Mystery: Choral Music of Advent and Christmas," the 40 voices combine ancient European singing traditions with modern choral works and hymn favorites. The program features a selection of classical pieces, including Mozart's "Te Deum," Bruckner's "Os Justi," Poulenc's "Hodie Christus natus est" and "Love Came Down at Christmas" by mid-20th-century composer Edwin Fissinger. There are traditional favorites, as well, such as "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." (7:30 p.m. Sat., St. Joseph Parish, 8701 36th Av. N., New Hope; 4 p.m. Sun., St. Richard's Catholic Church, 7540 Penn Av. S., Richfield; 4 p.m. Dec. 16, St. Paul Seminary Chapel, 2260 Summit Av., St. Paul, $10-$20, 612-217-4647 or William Randall Beard