Thursday December 14 Fortunate son: In modern-day Austin, Texas, where one is more likely to sling a song than a six-shooter, songwriter/rocker James McMurtry--son of Lonesome Dove author Larry--is one of the quickest draws around. The younger McMurtry, a fine storyteller in his own right, is a Lou Reed for the Lone Star set, sketching well-defined characters--little people and drifters--into minimalist settings with deft, low-key artistry. A reclusive sort, he's not the most charismatic performer you'll ever see on stage. But he is one of the most original--something that should be evident from the get-go when he appears tonight at 7 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Tickets are $7.35; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.
On the move: The Denver Museum of Natural History's Prehistoric Journey exhibit is all the rage with kids these days, but what about the really little youngsters who might not be ready to walk among bloodthirsty monsters from another era? The Children's Museum of Denver is doing what it can to allay the tyrannosaurus-shy crowds with a special exhibit scaled down to their size, called Baby Dinosaurs: A Prehistoric Playground. Featured are robotically animated baby dinos--including some favorites like a stegosaurus and a triceratops--in realistic settings. Best of all, the interactive displays, on exhibit through February 4, can be controlled by the kids themselves, so there's never a question about who's in the driver's seat. The museum will be hosting hands-on, parent-child dino workshops (for ages six and up) from 6 to 7:30 p.m., both this evening and next month on January 18. A $15 fee covers museum admission, materials and a resource guide; for information call 433-7444, ext. 128. The Children's Museum is located off I-25 at 23rd St. in the Central Platte Valley.
Friday December 15 Nesting instinct: Collectors as well as the just plain curious will enjoy the surprising variety when Coppelia's--that cozy-cute doll-collector's paradise on Old South Gaylord Street--presents a Russian Doll Trunk Show over the weekend. On display will be hundreds of examples of the matroyshka--or wooden nesting doll--of Russia, including everything from traditional peasant folk to political and sports figures. Price tags range anywhere from $12 to $2,000. Tea cakes and champagne will set the mood from 10 to 5 today and tomorrow and from noon to 5 Sunday. Coppelia's is located at 1084 S. Gaylord. Call 777-DOLL.
Saturday December 16 Do it your way: A pair of very different age-old holiday traditions will be relived today. At the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St., the tenth annual Winter Solstice Revels, harking back to the seasonable pagan festivals that long preceded religious observances such as Christmas and Hanukkah, will commence with a snack and dessert potluck at 6. But that's not the end of it--in the hours before midnight, participants can join in song and dance, be treated to mummers, storytelling, sword dancing and other entertainment and, if they last that long, observe the culminating Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance. There's no describing that, we're certain. Admission is $18 ($5 children ages six to twelve, under six free); call 722-5391. A nod to the not-so-distant past is Christmas With Cody, the annual Christmas celebration at the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum on Lookout Mountain. Cody himself used to don a Santa hat and pass out gifts to children, and lookalike Al Huffman will do the honors today between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Festivities also include live old-timey folk music, carols, merry minstrels and children's workshops. What's more, today is a free day at the museum, open from 9 to 4. Call 526-0747 for details.
Plainsong and simple: The 36-voice Ars Nova Singers aren't shy about their repertoire--members of the a cappella ensemble seem to be as much at home with carols of the late Middle Ages as they are with the works of twentieth-century composer Benjamin Britten. There will be some of each during Christmas With Ars Nova, the group's annual holiday concert, taking place this evening at 8 at Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave., Englewood. Tickets are $8 ($6 students and seniors); for information call 499-3165. And if you miss out this week, you'll still have a chance to catch them at a pair of repeat performances next weekend in Boulder.
A bridge too Farrar: Jay Farrar, the other half of the much-mourned Uncle Tupelo breakup, has--like former bandmate Jeff Tweedy and his new band, Wilco--unveiled his own fine country-rock combo. Son Volt is an ensemble that, at least on disc, more than assuages worried fans. Farrar's authentic voice and penchant for the oddball raveup remain intact from start to finish on the new album, and there's no reason to believe that won't be true live. Son Volt plugs in tonight at 9 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax, where Wilco tore the house down a few months back. To purchase tickets, $10, call 322-2308 or 1-800-444-SEAT.