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Dom Flemons: The American Songster

Americana and Folk

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Raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Dom Flemons began his involvement with music by playing percussion in his high school band. After picking up the guitar and harmonica as a teenager, he began to play in local coffee houses and became a regular performer on the Arizona folk-music scene. He took a brief break from playing music to pursue slam poetry (he majored in English at Northern Arizona University) and performed in two national poetry slams in 2002 and 2003. Aside from exploring slam poetry, he spent his early adulthood listening to records and discovering a love of folk music, blues, jazz, jug-band music, country music, and 1950s rock ’n’ roll. He became interested in folk musicians such as Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk, and Mike Seeger, as well as other musicians such as Mississippi John Hurt, Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, and Carl Perkins. After stepping away from the slam poetry scene, he rekindled his interest in music, this time focusing on the old-time blues music of the pre–World War II era.

Today, Flemons is a Grammy Award–winning musician, singer-songwriter, and slam poet. Carrying on the songster tradition, he strives to mix traditional music forms with a contemporary approach, to create new sounds that will appeal to wider audiences. In his recent solo album Prospect Hill (2014), Flemons drew from a wide range of musical styles, including ragtime, Piedmont blues, spirituals, Southern traditional, string band, fife and drum, and jug band music. Starting his musical career in Arizona, he produced twenty-five albums for singer-songwriters and slam poets in Phoenix. In 2005, he cofounded the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an African-American string band that won a Grammy for its 2010 album, Genuine Negro Jig. Recently, he has been touring throughout the United States and internationally as “The American Songster.”

In 2016, Lemons performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall for a tribute to Lead Belly and also performed at the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. He released his latest album called Ever Popular Favourites (2016), with British guitar player Martin Simpson. Lemons’s newest album project, which will be released through Smithsonian Folkways, celebrates the stories and songs of the black cowboys. He has also released two instructional DVDs through Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop and has a new podcast called American Songster Radio, broadcast in conjunction with WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio).

Flemons sounds as if he’s sitting on the front porch enjoying himself. This is a cheerfully varied set, on which he switches between guitar, harmonica, banjo and percussion.

Guardian

Stringband, jugband, fiddle-and-banjo and other old-timey styles of the East and South brought Dom Flemons to international attention with the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Roanoke Times

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