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46th Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival: The Ark.:

A major highlight of the local musical year, with established and rising stars representing a wide spectrum of vernacular musical idioms. This year’s festival kicks off with a show at the Ark on Friday Jan. 27 (see Nightspots listing). Tonight’s Hill Auditorium show is headlined by Ani DiFranco, a veteran New York singer-songwriter known for her intense, pungent, bruisingly intelligent postpunk pop-folk songs featuring an off-the-wall mix of social protest and self-revelation, sung in what Rolling Stone calls “a lovely, elastic voice that can swing from toffee to burlap within a phrase.” She has released several albums on her own label, Righteous Babe Records, which she founded in 1990 at age 19. “It’s easy to see why Ms. DiFranco has such a fervent following while remaining independent of recording companies; she offers a fine balance of realism, hardheadedness, and stubborn optimism,” says New York Times reviewer Jon Pareles. Also appearing: St. Paul & The Broken Bones is an 8-piece horn-fired Southern soul band from Birmingham (AL) whose latest album, The Alien Coast, offers a genre-bending convergence of soul and psychedelia, stoner metal, and funk. “Anyone who might have written [them] off as a mere throwback ought to settle in and marinate in a sound that keeps getting weirder, more inventive, and … more committed than ever to the pleasures of sprightly, joyous funk,” says an NPR critic. Patty Griffin is a highly regarded roots-music singer-songwriter from Maine who employs bluesy alto vocals and an emotively melodic guitar style to present her elegant, deeply poetic songs, which are personal in unexpected ways. San Antonio-bred Latin-folk singer-songwriter Gina Chavez is a 2015 Austin Musician of the Year who sings in English and Spanish and whose passionate, deeply personal songs draw on a diverse array of musical idioms from cumbia and bossa nova to swing and alternative rock. The Oshima Brothers are a rising Maine sibling duo that fuses pop-folk songwriting from one brother with production, engineering, filmmaking, and multi-instrumentalism from the other. Their two albums and many videos were made mostly in their home studio in Maine. Nashville-based singer-songwriter Kyshona is a former music therapist known for her soulful vocals, socially conscious lyrics, and versatile songwriting that draws on folk, rock, and R&B influences. The Jared Deck Band is led by this young alt-country Americana singer-songwriter from Oklahoma with a working-class point of view whose influences range from Springsteen and John Mellencamp to Alejandro Escovedo and Tom Russell. His song "The American Dream" won first place in a recent annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Songwriting Competition. Parker Millsap is an acclaimed young singer-songwriter from small-town Oklahoma whose songs blend the fire-and-brimstone energy of his Pentecostal upbringing with a Waitsian figurative bravado and a range of roots music idioms. Emcees are Peter Mulvey, a highly regarded folkie singer-songwriter from Milwaukee who is known for his complex guitar work, expressively playful vocals, and dark, vividly rendered lyrics. He is joined tonight by the Milwaukee-based Sistastrings, a classically trained gospel-flavored R&B sister duo with whom he has recorded a new album on DiFranco’s label. 8 p.m., Hill Auditorium. Tickets $45–$250 in advance at the Michigan Union Ticket Office (763–TKTS) & theark.org and at the door. 

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