Folksinger. The term conjures up the likes of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez. The charismatic banjo or guitar slinger who keeps it simple, powerfully getting right to the heart of the song.
But where have all the folksingers gone?
Thanks to musicians like Dom Flemons and Willie Watson, the folksinger idiom is making a comeback. It’s not glamorous work and it’s a hard road to travel, but many try and some, like Dom and Willie, even leave commercially successful bands in pursuit of the stripped down truth of American folk music.
Flemons calls himself a ‘songster’, a 19th-century term for wandering musicians, both black and white, who traveled and performed a wide variety of music, including folk songs, dance tunes, and minstrel songs. A founding member of the award winning group the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons left the band in 2013 to create music rooted in other aspects of music history and to re-examine what traditional music can become.
Inspired by the music of Pete Seeger and influenced by the sounds of Doo-Wop, ’60’s rock and pop, and ’50’s rock ’n roll, Dave Van Ronk, and acoustic Bob Dylan, Flemons has an eclectic style and curious mind that seeks to explore “the hidden facets of American Music.” In contrast to the early 20th century African American string band focus of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons brings his musical talents – singing and playing guitar, banjo, bones, harmonica, fife and jug – to put his spin on old-timey music, blues, early jazz, and rhythm and blues.
Whether playing solo or with bandmates Brian Farrow (upright bass) and Mike Johnson (percussion), Flemons takes his audience on a joyful, provocative, and entertaining musical journey.
Dom and his band kick off the 2015 season of Roots Music in the Music Room on Saturday, March 7. Opening for Dom are folkies Kristin Andreassen, a member of the bands Uncle Earl and Sometymes Why, and guitarist Jefferson Hamer.
Dom’s latest album, Prospect Hill, was named one of NPR’s Top Folk Albums and Folk Alley’s Top 10 Folk & Americana Albums of 2014. Listen to Dom’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Watch him perform. Learn how to play bones. Experience more Dom.