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Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 02:32 am

Seasonal samplings

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Uncle Kracker kicks it at the Prairie Capital Convention Center on Dec. 10.

’Tis the season to be jolly and by the looks of upcoming events, being jolly includes listening to music. From the constant holiday songs on WQQL 101.9 FM (how many versions of “Let it Snow!, Let it Snow!, Let it Snow!” are there anyway?) to school concerts, classical performances, church choirs, off-the-cuff singalongs and regular bar gigs with a “Jingle Bells” or two, the reason for the season is debatable but the outcome is joyful emotion and music is an integral part of that configuration.

Exciting holiday happenings just this weekend include recreating the ancient ritual of singing around a fire at Washington Park during Caroling at the Carillon, the Springfield Handel Choir doing the magnificent The Messiah by Handel, a staged performance of White Christmas and the Springfield Ballet Company’s 36th (count ’em) production of The Nutcracker.

This may be my most awkward segue ever, but I couldn’t help following one cracker with another and mentioning Uncle Kracker at the PCCC, Friday, Dec. 10, on his “Good to Be Me” tour. I’m not sure how holiday or nutty this Kracker gets, but the show is reasonably priced ($15 general admission and $2 facility fee) and includes guests Frankie Ballard and Ty Stone. Known to friends and family as Matt Shafer, the Uncle Kracker character first surfaced as a teenage DJ on the road with fellow Detroit native Kid Rock (not his real name either). As Mr. Rock progressed up the music business ladder, Mr. Kracker did too, at first through his songwriting abilities, then as a singing star in his own right. With a new recording out, produced by big-timer Rob Cavallo, and an opening slot on country superstar Kenny Chesney’s 2011 tour, Uncle Kracker’s holiday season is looking very jolly indeed.

A quick visit to our popular and vibrant club scene via Illinois Times’ online Pub Crawl (it sure is nice to know what’s coming up) shows an interesting and diverse weekend of music ahead. Aaron Keith, a talented, young, area songwriter plays with a soulful outlook and a pocketful of good tunes every Thursday at Starship Billiards as well as here and there at other venues. John Sluzalis, an incredible musical treasure and a heckuva great guy too, brings his Johnny Slu and Too Few to Robbie’s for Uptown Friday Night, 5:30 to 7:30. Something called Haute Fox plays at Marly’s on Friday, but all I could find out about them was the cryptic online message saying they’re “Five great musicians. Sooo Haute. Sooo Foxy.”

Bar None hosts a Friday show with the triumvirate of Telegraph 3am, Thunderbeast and Boon as fairly new local bands doing something cool. The Oohs, always a treat to see and hear with an amazing song catalogue far above and beyond the average bar band set list, play the Trading Post on Friday and Koo Koo’s Nest on Saturday. For an incredible display of roots R&B check out the Latimore Blues Show presented by Bad Boyz Productions at the Eagles Club on East Ash Saturday. The package includes comedian Diane Corder, blues singer extraordinaire Nellie “Tiger” Travis and the one and only Benny Latimore headlining. The 70-something R&B star, singer, songwriter and session pianist began his professional career in the mid-’60s and includes charted singles, classic songs, legendary live performances and some really wild album covers from the ’70s.

Lastly thanks to all who helped make our tribute and benefit for Raoul Brotherman a smashing success last Sunday. Special nods go to Duane Patterson and Tom Woolsey for taking care of the big guy’s last wishes, plus many other helpful souls, including everyone who donated to the cause. A bittersweet occasion, someone noted, but a powerful reminder going into a new year and a holiday season of how precious and wonderful life truly is.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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