Tuesday, July 1, 2014


As James Reeds points out in his Q&A with Dom Flemons in The Boston Globe, (which one can read here. Dom Flemons outgoing voicemail states, “Hello, this is Dom Flemons, American songster.” The founding member of the GRAMMY-winning, Grand Ole Opry and Newport-playing Carolina Chocolate Drops has left to go solo and his new album ‘Prospect Hill’ comes out July 22 on Music Maker Relief Foundation.

Flemons says, “I was first made aware of the term from Paul Oliver’s book ‘Songster and Saints.’ A songster is a musician that plays and sings their music.  They are also known to sing a variety of songs that their audience would know.” Other historians describe songsters as pre-blues and early blues-era entertainer whose repertoires encompassed a vast repertoire of different genres, which in Dom’s case include: New Orleans jazz, double-entendre tunes, Piedmont blues, ballads, original songs, fife and drum music, harmonica instrumentals, and more, played with style and showmanship on a variety of instruments such as the guitar, banjo, harmonica, quills, and spoons.

Dom explains that these songs relate directly to experiences of living in the 21st century, saying, “I do what I can to find the common ground between keeping the older style present in my arrangements while finding things that speak to me as a modern person.  Even though I can play a song that is 100 years old, I hope that whatever I might do I will be able to show my audience why I picked any given number and hope that they can find relevance in the way I am presenting it.”

Dom isn’t the only one talking about songsters in 2014. On June 24, Smithsonian Folkways released ‘Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways.’ Co-producer of that compilation Barry Lee Pearson puts it, “[A songster] is both a keeper of tradition, disseminating folk materials wherever he goes, and tradition’s worst enemy, contaminating local tradition with modern popular music.”

Flemons proclaims 2014 as “Year of the folksinger,” explaining to the Boston Globe, “There’s a lot of energy and movement in the folk community that has been happening for several years. I’ve been keeping an eye on it, and I’ve seen it growing.”

In the industry, folk music is gaining track as well, most recently exemplified by the continued growth of the Americana Festival and Conference and the GRAMMYs’ addition of 'Best American Roots Song' in the American Roots Music Field, the only new category this year.

Dom Flemons tour dates are here.

Flemons says, “I embrace the twisted history that formed our country and I hope that I can play and sing to make a few small improvements.”

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