Washington City Paper: Dom Flemons Is Rewriting the American Songbook

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When the Carolina Chocolate Drops formed in 2005, most people didn’t really associate old-time string band music with African-American culture. But over the better part of the last decade, the group introduced audiences around the world to that aspect of American roots music.

By 2013, Dom Flemons, one of Carolina Chocolate Drops’ founding members, had accomplished all that he wanted with the group and decided to part ways. He was at a creative crossroads.

“If you’ve got a band and a group name, then people can cling to that. If you’re just an individual, that’s a little trickier,” Flemons recalls. “For me, I had to figure out how I could create an idea that was going to be bigger than just myself as an individual.”

The concept Flemons arrived at was that of “The American Songster.” Songster, as Flemons describes it, is a term that predates genre labels like “blues” and “country,” which are often used as categories within American roots music. The word refers to performers who played music of different varieties that eventually developed into the forms that exist today.

After leaving Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons released a solo album, 2014’s Prospect Hill, and duo albums on which he collaborated with Piedmont blues guitarist Boo Hanks and English folk musician Martin Simpson.

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