Highlights from night one of the 39th annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival

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STORY BY ROGER LELIEVRE

One thing you can always count on at the annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival, a fundraiser for the much-loved downtown acoustic music venue The Ark, is that you’re guaranteed two nights of great music, even if you’ve never heard of some of the bands on the bill.

This year’s Folk Festival – the 39th annual, and marking the end of The Ark’s 50-year celebration – kicked off Friday in Hill Auditorium.

Among Friday’s performers, City and Colour had previously played the Folk Festival in 2013. Revered British singer/guitarist/songwriter Richard Thompson has countless local appearances to his credit. Yo La Tengo has been performing around these parts for nearly three decades, and the Ben Daniels Band is from neighboring Chelsea.

But The Oh Hellos, Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line or Penny & Sparrow? Never heard of them? Well, that’s kind of the point. With the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, it’s as much about the bands and performers you know as those you don’t. If you go, you’re bound to find some new favorites, and most of them will be returning to The Ark for full shows later in the year.

For me, one litmus test of the Folk Festival lineup is which of the bands made a big enough impression that I would be willing to catch them solo. So who made the cut? Continue reading