Randy Newman rarely makes studio albums anymore, August’s Dark Matter marking only his fourth LP in the past four decades. As Oscar-winning film soundtracks have become his primary focus, the 74-year-old pianist, singer, and composer has dedicated less time to the satiric wit and distinct narratives behind Seventies hallmarks including Sail Away and Little Criminals.
“I would have hoped to have done more,” he confesses. “It’s bad work habits. I think I should have done and could have done more. I’m glad that they’re good records, but when I don’t have to write, I don’t write. I’ve never liked to write. It’s sacrilege to say this in Austin, but I never have since I was a kid. I love having written stuff, but sitting there trying to think of stuff is a hard time for me.”
Still, Dark Matter arrives in a timely fashion for Newman’s acerbic pen, evidenced by sharp send-ups like “Putin” or a revision of his Monk theme, “It’s a Jungle Out There (V2).” Humor balances the emotional pull of “Lost Without You,” “Wandering Boy,” and the stunning stylistic complexities of “The Great Debate” and “Sonny Boy.”
“They’re never gonna love the guy who’s the comic, not in this field,” muses Newman of his more satirical work. “[Music] may not be a great medium for it. It isn’t the way to the country’s heart. I think this is probably the most popular that I’ve ever been, and there are younger people coming to the concerts, but I don’t think I’m that important – that if I weren’t out here it would be a big deal.
“It’s a bad time for the country,” he adds. “But it’s a good time for songwriters.”
Sun., Dec. 10, 7pm