After an impressive showing at night one of the 44th Ann Arbor Folk Fest, the second night had a high bar to clear, but it did not disappoint! In fact, The Ark reported in the livestream chat during Saturday’s show that over 3300 households from 22 countries participated in the 2021 Folk Fest. Saturday evening’s performers included Bruce Cockburn, Dar Williams, David Bromberg, Todd Snider, George Winston, Vance Gilbert, Dom Flemons, Matt Andersen, Crys Matthews, Sierra Ferrell, Andrea von Kampen, and the RFD Boys, along with Jeff Daniels as MC.
As was the case with the first night of the Folk Fest, it would be impossible to offer thoughts on the amazing array of performers for night 2. However, a few of the artists that were highlights for me on the second night were Andrea von Kampen, George Winston, and Crys Matthews.
Andrea von Kampen’s performance featured a relatively minimalist acoustic aesthetic that included just her and her guitar in her living room, and it was exceptionally effective. On top of that, it’s hard not to be inspired by her artistry as a singer-songwriter only in her mid-twenties. I found her final song, a cover of “Hard Times Come Again No More,” to be especially resonant during the current pandemic circumstances.
Next, solo pianist George Winston’s set was notable because it was the only set of the Folk Fest that was exclusively instrumental. He spoke at the beginning of his portion of the Folk Fest, but otherwise all of the piece titles were captioned on the screen rather than verbally introduced, giving audiences over thirty minutes of uninterrupted music. Winston’s performance, which was truly a sonic respite from the world, featured pieces such as “Moon” and a medley “Carol of the Bells/Cloudburst.”
Lastly, Chrys Matthews, along with special guest Heather Mae, performed a dynamic and powerful set of songs. Described on the Ark webpage as an important part of the “new generation of social justice music-makers,” Matthews “has been compared to everyone from Toshi Reagon to Tracy Chapman and Ruthie Foster.” After opening the set with her song “Selfless,” which tells the story of a healthcare worker who loses their own life while saving others during the COVID-19 pandemic, Matthews continued with a tribute to the late Representative John Lewis, “Call Them In.” Another highlight was her joyful song “Six Feet Apart,” which gives perspective to what we can still do during the pandemic, including singing and dancing:
Six feet apart won’t stop us
Don’t need to hold you in my arms, I still know you in the dark.
Just ‘cause I can’t kiss you underneath the moonlight
Doesn’t mean you have to feel alone tonight.
Let’s get closer
From six feet apart
Because the 44th Ann Arbor Folk Fest was virtual, even if you missed the livestream, you can still watch it as a rebroadcast through February 7! To purchase a pass to watch the Folk Festival, visit https://theark.org/folk-festival and click on “Festival tickets on sale now.” I especially enjoyed this online production, and I look forward to hopefully attending the Ann Arbor Folk Fest someday live and in person in Hill Auditorium!