If hip-hop is the CNN of the streets, Randy Newman is an arts reporter in a bloated newsroom of yore, a guy whose job is safe as long as he files a charming dispatch once every decade or so. Harps and Angels is Newman’s first non-soundtrack recording since 1999’s Bad Love, which itself came 11 years after Land of Dreams. Harps ties together a bunch of songs about the Very Bad State of Things These Days into a loose song cycle; it touches on immigration, stereotypes, the Bush administration. “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” is an NPR listener’s dream—a backhanded exercise in apologetics in which he compares the United States favorably to the Spanish Inquisition and Nero. It’s hardly timely—dude, Tom Morello was on this stuff years ago. But then again, Tom Morello would have probably made a mess of the big race scene in Cars.
NEWMAN PERFORMS AT 8 P.M. AT THE MUSIC CENTER AT STRATHMORE, 5301 TUCKERMAN LANE, BETHESDA. $25-$55. (301) 581-5100.