Five concerts to attend at The Ark in August

Lori McKenna, Smooth Hound Smith, Olivia Millerschin and more lead our list

By Matt Giles - Associate Producer

Caitlin Doyle and Zack Smith, aka Smooth Hound Smith is the foot-stompin’ American roots duo performs at The Ark in August. (Credit: The Ark)

ANN ARBOR - We know that August can sometimes be a bit of a sad month, as it marks the end of summer and our entrance into the colder months of the year. That does not mean, however, that we can't all live it up throughout the month in one of the best ways we know how: attending concerts that feature the musicians that we love at one of our favorite places, The Ark. 

As with any list, we acknowledge up front that there are several wonderful places to see concerts throughout Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas and that our list is by no means meant to be definitive. In case you haven't already noticed, we tend to be fans of the "top five" format. With that in mind, the list that follows is merely a suggestion; musical acts that we're interested in, or have seen before and/or simply think are worth your attention. We encourage you to share and comment below with your picks and, as always, welcome your feedback. 

We hope you enjoy what follows, as we tried to think outside the Bach's.

Friday, Aug. 3

What: Lori McKenna, the stunning country-folk songwriter and singer, returns after her appearance at this year's Folk Festival

When: 8 p.m.

Tickets: $25; purchase online here.

Home and the people who make it have captivated Lori McKenna for years. Over the last three decades, as she became a wife and mother of five, she has also emerged as one of the most respected, prolific singer-songwriters in popular music. Her 2016 release "The Bird and the Rifle" netted three Grammy nominations, along with Americana Music Association nods -- all firsts for McKenna as an artist. Then, she made history: In 2016, she became the first woman ever to win the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year two years in a row thanks to co-writing Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and penning Tim McGraw’s no. 1 “Humble and Kind” solo. Both songs also clinched back-to-back Grammy wins for Best Country Song. In 2017, she became the Academy of Country Music’s first female Songwriter of the Year. McKenna’s much-anticipated eleventh studio album, "The Tree," produced by Dave Cobb, takes one of McKenna’s signature themes -- family -- and builds a tapestry of experiences she has lived and overheard, been told and dreamed up, to create a stunning ode to life’s defining relationships.

Thursday, Aug. 9

What: Smooth Hound Smith with special guest Olivia Millerschin

When: 8 p.m.

Tickets: $15; purchase online here.

Smooth Hound Smith is the foot-stompin’ American roots duo of one-man band Zack Smith (guitars/vocals/foot drums/harmonicas/banjo) and Caitlin Doyle (vocals/percussion). Established in 2012, and currently based in East Nashville, they record and perform a varied and unique style of folksy, garage-infused rhythm & blues. Using primal foot percussion, complex, fuzzed-out, finger-picked guitar patterns, warbled harmonicas, tasty harmonies and a lot of tambourine, they are able to create something rugged and visceral -- a modern interpretation of early blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll music that harks back to the traditions of hazy front porch folk songs as well as raucous back-alley juke joints. They're coming to Michigan with music from their as-yet-untitled but much-awaited third album.

Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Olivia Millerschin will perform as a special guest for this show, and a local favorite of ours. Her most recent album, "Look Both Ways," is full of the clever lyrics, haunting melodies and colorful folk, pop and soulful elements she’s noted for, with a few more years of life and musical experience added. The album’s title reflects Olivia’s quest to “look both ways” -- relish in the good and proceed with caution when necessary -- in a complex music industry and world.

Wednesday, Aug. 15

What: Robben Ford -- a bluesman you've heard much more often than you realize

When: 8 p.m.

Tickets: $40; purchase online here.

Guitar virtuoso Robben Ford’s latest album, "Into The Sun," debuted at no. 2 on blues charts and shines a bright light on his artful, contemporary songwriting and stunning playing. The five-time Grammy nominee describes the 11-song set as “one of the top recordings I’ve ever done” and Guitar Player asserts that it “explores the breadth of Ford’s sophisticated, visionary writing and playing, creating a new chapter in his brilliant musical history.” Robben has recorded more than 35 albums under his own name and with various bands. There’s also his session and sideman work, which included hundreds of concert appearances and albums by Miles Davis, George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Barbara Streisand, Charlie Musselwhite, KISS, Ruthie Foster, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Witherspoon, Larry Carlton, Brad Paisley, Gregg Allman, Phil Lesh and Rickie Lee Jones. Robben continues to tour heavily and teach master classes in the U.S. and worldwide.

Wednesday, Aug. 22

What: Eilen Jewell, discoveries from the history of American song

When: 8 p.m.

Tickets: $20; purchase online here.

Eilen Jewell laughs when told her label’s president called her a musicologist. But she confirms she and her husband and bandmate, Jason Beek, have a passion for studying American music. “We really love to uncover the past. It’s almost like digging for buried treasure,” she says. “For me, that’s where music is at. I like all kinds of music as long as there’s the word early in front of it.” For her latest album, "Down Hearted Blues," they unearthed 12 vintage gems written or made famous by an array of artists both renowned and obscure, from Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie to Charles Sheffield and Betty James. Then, like expert stonecutters, they chiseled them into exciting new shapes and forms, honoring history while breathing new life into each discovery. 

Sunday, Aug. 26

What: Peter Bradley Adams 

When: 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $15; purchase online here.

There's a confidence, a completeness in the song cycle that listeners have gleaned throughout songwriter Peter Bradley Adams' illustrious career, but "A Face Like Mine," his sixth solo effort, brings it all into sharp focus. Peter's brand of Americana nestles his often delicate, always heartfelt voice in the warm embrace of gentle guitar, tasteful dobro, subtle banjo, supportive bass, and unhurried percussion. The result is a soundscape that, in turn, wraps itself around the listener like a soft blanket on a cold day. With "A Face Like Mine," Peter Bradley Adams further refines the simple musical sophistication that has become his trademark.

Who are you most excited to see perform at The Ark in August? View their full schedule here and let us know in the comments below. 

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