The best word to classify folk singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and musical scholar-historian Dom Flemons (or at least the word he prefers) is “songster,” which in the early 20th century meant someone who could play and sing a wide variety of musical styles. Flemons, whose repertoire covers nearly a century of traditional American tunes, ballads and folklore, is returning to Caffè Lena at 7pm on Thursday, August 30, to play a set of music from his new album Black Cowboys.
Released on nonprofit record label Smithsonian Folkways, as part of the African American Legacy Recordings series, Black Cowboys is a refreshing collection of original and reimagined traditional songs—plus one poem—that examines the history and culture of African-American pioneers in the West.
A founding member of the Grammy Award-winning, old-time string band, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons has been a solo artist since 2014 and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry as such earlier this year. Black Cowboys has earned rave reviews and was on the Billboard Bluegrass charts for seven weeks. I recently talked with Flemons about the roots of American songwriting.