Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird and Breathe Owl Breathe – two of the most original and eclectic groups to emerge from the Ann Arbor area – will perform at Kerrytown Concert House this Thursday night.

Jessica Boullion
(Courtesy of Earthwork Music)

Forming two equally essential parts of Michigan’s Earthwork Music Collective, Kahn and Breathe Owl Breathe both write music rooted in folk traditions, yet nearly impossible to classify. Except to say this: Both groups offer music so richly diverse and alive that it must be experienced to be appreciated.

A former student of the University, Kahn studied acting, directing, playwriting and poetry, earning a handful of Hopwood Awards and even publishing a poetry collection along the way. After years of traveling, late-night piano gigs, punk circus parades and directing-producing-acting-composing for theatre works in New Orleans, Detroit, New York and even Ann Arbor, the word “prolific” hardly suffices Kahn’s work ethic.

It certainly wouldn’t be fair to classify Kahn’s music as simply “indie folk,” but his earliest recordings evoked comparisons to the experimental folk of Tom Waits and Nick Cave. In recent years, however, Kahn has more than transcended the genre.

ing “The Painted Bird” – named after the controversial 1965 novel by Jerzy Kosinski – Kahn and a company of Klezmer and Balkan players created a thick musical brew described, ever so fondly, as Verfremdungsklezmer. That is to say, a heavy dose of Radical Yiddish Song, a chunk of Punk Cabaret, a smidgen of Gothic American Folk and a splash of Klezmer Danse Macabre.

The kind of music better experienced live than in the pages of any overwrought music magazine.

Opening Thursday’s show will be Ann Arbor’s own brilliant folk-duo Breathe Owl Breathe. The group will be supporting its newest full-length album Canadian Shield, which is already one of the best records of 2007, in Michigan or anywhere else.

Breathe Owl Breathe makes music of honest curiosity: Music that confounds a listener with its relentless humility, while somehow entrancing an audience with its loveliness at the same time.

The interweaving strings of melody from Andr

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