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Jeff Daniels Has New Thanksgiving Tradition In Mind

Of the Oakland Press

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America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Lions game. And Jeff Daniels.

This weekend, the Chelseabased actor and, increasingly, musician launches what he hopes will become a holiday weekend tradition in Michi gan — Jeff Daniels & Friends, at which he’ll be joined by Michigan artists such as Peter “Madcat” Ruth, Rachael Davis, Wayne David Parker, Neil Woodward and the Lansing band Steppin’ in It.

Daniels, 51, says he modeled the show after Arlo Guthrie’s annual gathering at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

“It’s the same idea,” he explains. “It features a lot of Michigan musicians and builds to a finale where we’re all on stage together. There’s very little chance that I’m shooting a movie through Thanksgiving weekend, so the odds for me being available to do a show that weekend are pretty good.

“Hopefully, it’ll be something I can do every year. The priority now is just getting people interested in it. Like everything, you’ll improve upon it. At the very least, hopefully it can come back every year to Ann Arbor; if it ends up being a bigger deal, we’ll look at bigger venues to go to.”

Daniels, whose most recent film roles include “Infamous,” “RV,” “Lookout” and “Mama’s Boy,” began displaying his musical ambitions a few years ago with solo acoustic performances to benefit his Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea. His refl ective, good-humored originals appeared on the 2004 album “Live and Unplugged,” and this year he revised his song “The Lifelong Tiger Fan Blues,” composed after the team’s disastrous 2003 season, to reflect this year’s American League championship run.

Daniels has a new batch of songs — including “Detroit Train,” “Grandfather’s Hat” and “Forgive Me Robert Johnson” — to perform this weekend and plans to have copies of his second album ready to sell at the show. This time out, he acknowledges, he’s approaching the music a little more seriously.

“Since the release of the first CD, there’s been a concerted effort to write things that can travel,” Daniels explains, “that can not only go into the show but can also play outside of Michigan. The fi rst one was, ‘Let’s put out a CD and see if it sells in Michigan.’ That’s all it was intended to do. And the fact it got picked up and was received positively fl oored me.

“So this time, I worked really hard on the songwriting. I enjoy it; I love the creative challenge of (music). If someone said, ‘Y’know what, it doesn’t look like there’s any good movies or scripts for you’ in a given year, I’d be perfectly fine jumping in the bus, grabbing a guitar and hitting the road. Creatively, (music) is the purest thing I do.”

Jeff Daniels & Friends takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday (November 25th)at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $27.50-$75. Call (734) 668-8463 or visit www.michtheater.org.

Web Site: www.michtheater.org

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