Laughs, napkin folding and folk from Christine Lavin

The Detroit News

You never know quite what to expect when Christine Lavin shows up.

Sure, some funny and touching original acoustic songs, but there could be some baton twirling, a pre-show knitting workshop or, if you catch her show with Don White on Friday in Ann Arbor, on Saturday in Ontario or at one of two free performances Sunday in West Bloomfield, it may be ... napkin folding?

“I’ve been doing ‘Downton Abbey’ napkin folding between shows,” said Lavin, 64. “The first time I did it, I sold no CDs at all because so many people crowded around the table.”

Lavin became entranced by the formal folded napkins on the PBS period drama and felt compelled to learn the art of napkin-folding. Lately, she’s focused on a special fold created for the last royal wedding by Luigi Spotorno, author of “Luigi's Language of Napkin Folding.”

“I am determined,” Lavin said Monday night, “to learn that for the shows this weekend.”

Anyone expecting a set of earnestly dour three-chord odes to save the undocumented baby whales will find Lavin and White a surprisingly different kind of folk act. White, a Massachusetts story teller and singer/songwriter, touchingly explores the lighter side of domestic life, including “Be Sixteen with Me” the ballad of parents who take revenge on their children by acting just as the kids did as teenagers by staying out all night.

(Sample lyric: “They’ll be the ones trying to find the truth out / And we’ll be the one lying through our teeth / And under pressure we’ll confess / We had unprotected sex / That will gross them out so much they might just start to think about moving out.”)

Lavin came out of New York’s Greenwhich Village Fast Folk cooperative in the early 1980s, along with Suzanne Vega, Sean Colvin and John Gorka. She’s released more than 20 albums on her own, along with multiple collections featuring other artists, including Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels, who appeared on the first of her two “Just One Angel” Christmas compilations. Lavin is no slouch on guitar, either, thanks to years studying with legendary jazz and folk finger-picker Dave Van Ronk.

Lavin’s song titles include “Cold Pizza for Breakfast,” “Don’t Ever Call Your Sweetheart by His Name,” the ode “Bald Headed Men,” the mocking “Sensitive New Age Guy” and a work in constant progress, “What Was I Thinking?” which could be getting its latest update before this weekend.

“After the New Hampshire primary, somebody’s going to do something stupid, so I will have a new ending, I promise you,” Lavin said. “I’ve had an ending about Steve Harvey when he did the Miss Universe mix-up, and one about the mean dentist who shot Cecil the lion. And I had one that is an all-purpose guy on a hoverboard bursting into flames. Naturally, it was Donald Trump.”

Christine Lavin and Don White

8 p.m. Fri.

The Ark, 316 S. Main, Ann Arbor

Tickets: $25. (734) 763-TKTS or theark.org

8 p.m. Sat.

The Registry Theater, 122 Frederick, Kitchener, Ontario

Tickets: $20 and $25 (800) 265-8977 or folknight.ca

3 and 6 p.m. Sun.

West Bloomfield Public Library, 4600 Walnut Lake, West Bloomfield

Free admission (248) 682-2120 or wblib.org