Michigan Chamber Folk: Chris DuPont is “Live in A2" (and Ypsilanti)


Chris Dupont

Chris Dupont's new CD is a love letter to his loyal fans.

While building a reputation as a talented performer and songwriter, Ypsilanti’s Chris DuPont has kept up a schedule of releasing an album every couple of years. After three well-received studio outings, this year’s release is called Live in A2 -- and it developed as something of an accident.

“I honestly don’t really like live albums very much,” DuPont says with a smile. “There are a couple I love, but it’s not something I really imagined doing.”

But a soundboard recording was made of his show last year at The Ark. Listening to the results, he was struck by how good it sounded. So he decided to do a low-key release, with the first half of the album drawn from The Ark show and the second half featuring some concert favorites recorded “live in studio” at Ann Arbor’s Solid Sound Recording Co.

The result is a great overview of DuPont’s music, featuring some of his best original songs -- including “House,” “Forgiveness,” and “Dearest Julia” -- along with a couple cover songs, Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and the Sesame Street classic “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.” (“I figured it would just be a joke,” DuPont says, “but Ann Arbor audiences really picked up on it and it became kind of a staple in my set.”) He sees Live in A2 as a love letter to loyal fans and a broad overview for newcomers.

Dupont sometimes describes his music as “Michigan Chamber Folk,” and it’s hard to improve on that. Romance, spirituality, and nature are among the themes explored. His songs have a contemporary singer-songwriter feel, with acoustic guitar augmented on the live tracks by tasteful violin (Katie Van Dusen), cello (Christina Furtado), piano (Betsy King), and drums (Luke Jackson). The effect is immediate and intimate.

“I’ve always loved the term ‘chamber music,’” DuPont says. “It evokes something specific, a quartet or small ensemble. And the interplay in his music between the guitar, cello, and violin creates an almost semi-classical feel at times.

Michigan, though, is also an important element, coming through in songs like “Evergreen Waltz,” which leads off the new album. “There definitely is a sound, an aesthetic” shared by Michigan roots artists, DuPont says. “Several months of the year, we’re sitting by the fire and trying to decide if it’s all worth it. … I think the landscape, the weather, and maybe the pace of life, too, have really formed a lot of the people who’ve come out of here.”

A true camaraderie among Michigan performers is also key. “There are a lot of artists pulling one another up,” he says. “I think that’s a big part of the sound. … You don’t have that everywhere.”

Sunday, July 30, offers a chance to see DuPont perform in person, along with his wife, Betsy King, at Ypsilanti’s Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse. The show will benefit the Washtenaw ID Project and the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a cause that means a lot to the couple. DuPont will back King on guitar during her songs, and she’ll sing backup for his set.

Sunday’s show may be the last chance for a while to catch DuPont live in this area. He plans to hunker down in his home studio for the next few months, writing and “making stuff.” Luckily, his fans now have Live in A2 to fill the void.

Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.

Chris DuPont and Betsy King play a benefit concert for the Washtenaw ID Project and the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights at 6 pm on Sunday, July 30, at Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse, 307 N. River St., Ypsilanti.