Sam Amidon modernizes classic folk music at Ark show

Sam Amidon, a folksinger from Vermont, played at The Ark in Ann Arbor this Monday after the release of his new album, “Lily-O.” Raised by folk musicians Peter and Mary, Alice Amidon, Amidon embodies the idea of a classic folksinger, but modernized.

Amidon maintained a funny and relaxed persona between the songs, slipping in clever and amusing anecdotes. Sharing stories and laughs with the audience made the whole show feel more like a meeting of friends in a coffee shop or living room than anything.

However, the musician slipped into a more serious, meaningful role as he played compelling songs and alluring melodies. Amidon sang with a strong voice, piercing and attention-grabbing, while other times as soft as a lullaby. Each song he played was accompanied by a funny story at the beginning and end, and he even coaxed the crowd into a simple sing along, smiling encouragement the entire time.

Amidon was not alone onstage. Thomas Bartlett accompanied the folksinger on piano, a few drums, and provided inventive sound effects. The nice background made Amidon’s songs sound fuller. But in some cases, otherwise sweet and gentle acoustic songs were ruthlessly attacked by pounding sound effects and computerized noise. A little less electronic music would have made the performance near perfect.

The performer moved from banjo to fiddle to acoustic guitar, from upbeat and happy Irish jigs to melancholic songs. He played songs from old albums, songs from the new album, and old folk covers. There was plenty of variety in the show.

Amidon ended with a beautiful rendition of Rosa Lee Watson’s “Your Lone Journey,” in which he paired soft and sad acoustic guitar with quiet, tender piano in the background to give it strength. Amidon’s strong but soothing voice infused the song with new feeling to wrap up the show with a brilliant finish.

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