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Randy Newman inhabits the always-shaky ground of being one of America's best songwriters while being both chronically overlooked in some circles and perpetually adored in others. Adulation is the more favorable route for Newman, though, who expertly plays on humor to elevate the tragedy. Lester Maddox hates him, and short people may, too, but--for classics like the apropos "Political Science," the more apropos "Louisiana 1927," and the always-ironic-for-Newman "Lonely at the Top"--most listeners love him. Newman guest conducts the N.C. Symphony, along with resident conductor William Henry Curry, at Raleigh's Meymandi Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. and then on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $27 to $40.

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