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Dead Horses at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, 3 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2018

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Dead Horses’ Sarah Vos has a story ripped from a Lifetime channel movie.

Born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, her life was ripped apart when she was 15 and her father, a fundamentalist minister, was dismissed from his pulpit after two of her siblings -- including Vos’ twin brother -- were institutionalized for mental illness and cognitive disabilities. It took three years for the family to regain its footing, but the enduring marks of that time are evident in Vos’ songs for Dead Horses.

The duo -- with bassist Daniel Wolff and a rotating array of live players -- will release its third album “My Mother The Moon,” on April 6 and makes its Ann Arbor Folk Festival debut on Friday, Jan. 26...

• Though it’s still informed by her teenage trauma, “My Mother The Moon” finds Vos looking outward and applying the lessons learned during that time to the world at large. “A lot of the songs are combinations of empathy for myself or my memory of myself from childhood and empathy for the current modern climate of people, what they’re going through currently,” Vos, 30, says by phone from her home in Milwaukee. “A good chunk of the songs I wrote during the (2016) presidential election. I guess I feel more confident about my perspective on people and the country from reading and from our travels and kind of seeing it first-hand. I feel fortunate to have gotten to travel to a lot of rural places, mostly in the Midwest. There’s so much to be learned there, so a lot of this (album) is about taking my own experiences as well as what I happen to be observing politically and culturally.”

• The album marks the second time Dead Horses has recorded with in Nashville with producer Ken Coomer, a veteran of the bands Uncle Tupelo and Wilco. “We knew him very well and he knew us very well and we had an idea at least of how we were going to approach the recording even though we really didn’t decide on the songs until we were actually in the studio,” Vos explains. “We recorded all the kind of main tracks between Daniel and myself and then we would build the songs from there, which was a little different. I think there was more confidence, certainly, but always that fear when you’re putting something new out there.”

• Vos and Wolff don’t mind Dead Horses being considered folk music, but they have their own definition of what that means. “It’s cool to feel kind of connected to the thing that has been happening throughout the entire country,” Vos says. “That’s what folk music is to me -- responding to what’s happening in a cultural or political sense but also to what’s happening immediately around you and what you’re feeling personally. And I’d like to point out, too, that folk music is not just people with acoustic instruments. It’s rappers, anything. It’s the music of the people. That’s the way I view it. It’s cool to feel like that’s something I can do.”

If You Go

• 41st Ann Arbor Folk Festival

• 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 26-27

• Hill Auditorium on the U-M campus.

• Tickets, $42.50-$200, still remain for Friday.

• Call 734-761-1800 or visit theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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