You might have a quick reaction to those preemptive words “The American Songster” but, in fact, that’s how Grammy winner time and two-time Emmy winner Dom Flemons is known. One wonders if there’s anything that’s beyond his immense scope of talents. He’s a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, actor, music scholar, historian, and record collector. He plays banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, jug, percussion, and rhythm bones – all instruments that are represented somewhere in this sprawling two-disc set that comes in three parts. It includes the original Prospect Hill album from 2014, the 2015 Record Store Day nine-track EP What Got Over (making its first appearance in CD/digital), and a third section, The Drum Major instinct, 12 previously unissued instrumentals that focus on moods, rhythm experimentation and “the beats.” The last two parts are contained on CD 2.

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Multi-Instrumentalist, Historian, and Songster 
Silver Spring, MD
2020 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Dom Flemons, Grammy Award recipient, two-time Emmy nominee, and 2019 Washington Area Music Award winner, is originally from Phoenix, AZ, and currently lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife Vania Kinard and their daughter Cheyanne Love.

Flemons is called “The American Songster” because his musical repertoire covers over one hundred years of American folklore, ballads, and tunes. He is a songwriter, music scholar, historian, record collector, and a multi-instrumentalist. He is an expert player of the banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, jug, percussion, quills, and rhythm bones.

Read more here.

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When I first got this new-to-me release from Dom Flemons, I slipped disc 1 into my car’s player as I cruised down Florida’s highway 441. Yowsa! I was immediately smiling and tapping my “clutch foot” with the boys in the band as they let things rip for all they are worth on the opener, “Til The Seas Run Dry,” complete with a woodblock solo that could raise the infirm out of their chairs and have them struttin’. As I listened, tapped and smiled on, I thought Flemons sure has gathered up a fine mess of good old obscure songs that have flown under my blues, old timey, and whatnot radar. It wasn’t ‘till I was safely parked and reading the fine print, I saw that Flemons had written a bunch of them, tunes that seamlessly sound and feel like they were written 100 years ago, minus thank goodness, the recording tech of that era.

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In Their Words: “In 2012, I was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, doing a tintype photo session with photographer Bill Steber. Knowing that I was in the area for a few days, Bill recommended that I try one of the best-known regional dishes, hot chicken. After the session, I made my way over to the strip mall in East Nashville, Tennessee, where Prince’s Hot Chicken, the original restaurant, was located. I was fortunate to have my friend Bill prepare me for what I was about to encounter with this amazing dish. He explained that it would take me on a mystical journey if I ordered the extra hot. So, I decided to indulge in the medium-hot flavor and I was instantly inspired to write this song.

“This hokum song is reminiscent of the 1930s era of music that was developed by songsters like Thomas A. Dorsey, Tampa Red, Bo Carter, and Papa Charlie Jackson. Songs like these use small lyrical vignettes to frame a chorus that has a free changing meaning throughout each verse. The vignettes I’ve created incorporate a lot of animal imagery and parables, which is a strong part of early African American music and folktales. This version from What Got Over (a 2015 EP released for Record Store Day) features my vocals and harmonica accompanied by a muscular guitar vibe from Guy Davis. Here’s something I shared in my podcast about the song in a special bonus episode of American Songster Radio.” — Dom Flemons, The American Songster

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The Earth Below surface, The Contortionistvisit 1979, Bart Budwig rolls a live one, Wank shut it, Easy ride the waves and more in today’s Roundup. J. Geils, Walter Becker, Kurt Cobain and Rihannawere all born on this date. That would be one weird supergroup. But I’d still love to hear it.


SONG OF THE DAY

1 | The Earth Below | Abydos

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Originally established in 2010 as a creative outlet for multi-instrumentalist, Deepak Raghu – best known locally as serial drummer for the likes of Shepherd and Bevar SeaThe Earth Below is perhaps one of Bangalore’s most captivating solo projects. From his debut EP Aleph and resulting album, Window Lights for Wanderers, to 2018’s beautifully psychedelic Dreams of A Thousand Stillness, Raghu has traversed a cornucopia of musical styles and movements over the past decade, treating listeners to shades and sounds akin to CSNY, Slint, Leonard Cohen and Chris Bell. With Nothing Works Vol. 2: Hymns For Useless Gods, out April 10, Raghu explores jazz, post rock and the heavier side of a six string to pitch a weightier, more complex sound: “While this album maintains the intensity in mood of my previous releases, I think that is enhanced by a denser musical arrangement this time,” explains Raghu. “The blood runs thick with Black Sabbath but the heart needs a bit of Roy Orbison and this album covers more musical and lyrical landscapes than my earlier EPs.”

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THE PRESS RELEASE:Dom Flemons is known as “The American Songster.” He’s a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, actor, music scholar, historian, and record collector. He is considered an expert player on the banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, jug, percussion, quills, and rhythm bones. A co-founder of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons was a member of the group from their inception in 2005 through 2013. His third solo album, Prospect Hill, was released in 2014 after Flemons spent many years learning and playing with tradition bearers such as Marty Stuart, Taj Mahal, Guy Davis, Mike Seeger, and James “Boot” Hanks, among many others. In 2020, this seminal release returns in an amazing expanded edition. Out Feb. 28, Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus is a three-part journey with the originalProspect Hill album; the 2015 Record Store Daynine-track EP What Got Over; and The Drum Major Instinct, a set of 12 previously unissued instrumental tracks that focus on moods, rhythm experimentations, and “the beats.”

Read more here.