On Monday, April 4, at 8 pm, the Ark presents two of my favorite singer songwriters, Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers, in concert together. Seventy-two year-old Archie Fisher is one of the great treasures of Scottish folk music, born into a large family of singers (two of his sisters, Ray and Cilla, are also professional folk musicians). He has been performing since 1960, and has been a strong proponent of folk music in Scotland (his long-running radio show, “Travelling Folk”, introduced many new acts which have since become valued members of the folk community). He is a masterful interpreter of traditional songs as well as the author of several songs which have passed into the folk tradition (most famously, “The Witch of the Westmorelands”, covered by none other than Garnet’s older brother Stan in its best known interpretation). His rich tenor is still strong, and this is a rare opportunity to see him on this side of the Atlantic.
Canadian Garnet Rogers is well-known in the Ann Arbor area, after touring here since his earliest days as a solo artist and most of his Ark concerts are near-sellouts. His full-bodied baritone fills the room effortlessly with his story-songs which chronicle the “small victories” of everyday people, showcasing his ability to share the triumphs and sorrows of living in this world. He tells stories, too, full of razor-sharp wit and insight, while his guitar playing is incendiary. Seeing just one of them would be worth it, but having both of them on one stage should prove purely magical. Tickets are $17.50.
For something entirely different, try the “nu-folk bluegrass” of Crooked Still on Thursday, April 21, at 8 pm at the Ark. Comprised of Aoife O’Donovan’s breathy vocals, Gregory Liszt’s banjo, Brittany Haas’ fiddling, Tristan Clarridge’s cello, and Corey DiMario’s double bass, the band was formed in 2001. On their recordings, the Boston-based quintet showcases traditional songs performed in innovative ways, with non-standard instrumentation. They have branched out into a few self-penned numbers on their last two albums, including their newest, “Some Strange Country”. Crooked Still has been one of my favorite discoveries of the 2000s, and I strongly recommend seeing them. Tickets are $15.
Nashville-based Minnesota native singer-songwriter Sally Barris appears at the Green Wood Coffee House series on Friday, April 15, at 8 pm. Tickets are $12. Ms. Barris, a light soprano,has been compared to “sparkling crystal,” and she has a vivid way with words. She writes her songs out of a deep immersion in the folk idiom. On her latest recording, “Restless Soul,” she’s taken Celtic and English influences and made them into her own, writing songs ranging from a blue-grassy “Tears of Joy” to the ballad story “Huntingdon River”. Her songwriting talents are highly regarded in Nashville, as songs like “Let The Wind Chase You” (Trisha Yearwood), “Reluctant Daughter” (Martina McBride), “Some Things I Know” (Lee Ann Womack), “I’m On My Way” (Kellie Pickler) and “The Innocent Years” (Kathy Mattea) attest.