Paste Magazine: 14 Artists Proving Black Americana Is Real

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Black Americana is a term that most readily conjures imagery of slave-era memorabilia rather than a subset of contemporary music. Conversely, “old-timey” is a catchall term that masks a history of blackface minstrelsy and certain appropriations of black vernacular culture. In truth, no matter who’s performing, Americana represents an original culture born of African, Native American, and Scotch-Irish hybridity in the southern parts of the U.S.

The notion of who represents Americana spread to the mainstream this past autumn when The Dixie Chicks’ performance with Beyoncé at the Country Music Awards sparked a metaphorical firestorm across both sides of America’s racial binary. (Paste responded by pointing out 6 Reasons Why Country Music Is Blacker Than You Think.) Still, people of color performing this style of music slip under the radar too often, perpetuating the false idea that the Americana genre is just for the white and male.  Read more here.

 

Triad City Beat: Dom Flemons earns standing ovation at Muddy Creek Music Hall

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The worn, wooden floors of the music hall vibrated as boots stomped out the beat, the room pulsing with the clap of hands and intermittent brays of whistling and whoops. Adorned in his signature old-timey clothes — flat brimmed hat, suspenders and plaid shirt — Dom Flemons bellowed out the lyrics, “Going down the road, feeling bad, Lord, feeling bad.” His long fingers picked and strummed the strings of his guitar, a harmonica hanging around his neck, time suspended as if the crowd had been transported for the moment back to the golden age of folk and blues.

Flemons took the stage with his friend and touring partner Brian Farrow on March 31 at Muddy Creek Music Hall in Bethania on the outskirts of Winston-Salem. Formerly of the Grammy-winning old-time string group Carolina Chocolate Drops — which also featured Greensboro’s Rhiannon Giddens — Flemons has performed across the United States, upholding the old-timey folk and blues tradition in his performances. His setlist for the evening comprised a number of songs off his latest solo record Prospect Hill, as well as numerous covers by such ragtime and vaudeville musicians as Maggie Jones, Doc Watson and Martha Simpson, giving his own bluesy touch to the melodies.

Muddy Creek Music Hall was forced to open the back hall for seating, having sold out the show before the doors opened for the night. Audience members stood along the edges of the room, all the chairs and tables filled, leaving only a small amount of space for the couples who would periodically stand and begin to dance. And even with almost two-and-a-half hours of music, the crowd never let up their cheering and clapping as Flemons sang.

Farrow, a multi-instrumentalist, has performed alongside such acts as Jonny Grave, Paperhaus, the Hackensaw Boys and Letitia Van Sant. Most recently he has been performing with Flemons on his winter tour, the 31st bein g the closing night after almost three weeks on the road, before they could both return home for a short break.

Towards the end of the show, Farrow laid down his bass and took up the fiddle as Flemons plucked along on his guitar. The pair did a cover of the song “Sitting On Top of the World,” an old tune originally written by the Mississippi Sheiks, covered through the years by several acts including, most famously, Howlin’ Wolf, Doc Watson and the Grateful Dead.

Read more here.

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Savannah Music Festival Review: Dom Flemons, Chouk Bwa Libete/Leyla McCalla

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It’s safe to say much of the audience at the Morris Center was deeply impacted by the cultural immersion. Happily, only a very few left early for whatever reason, and almost all the sold-out crowd remained for the extra-long set, which Savannah Music Festival Director Rob Gibson had subtly alerted the audience might happen if the band desired to make it so.

While on paper it seemed odd for the actual celebrity of the night, former Carolina Chocolate Drops member and Grammy winner Leyla McCalla to open instead of headline, I think McCalla herself would agree there is no way to “follow” a show as intense and charismatic as Chouk Bwa Libete’s.

A delightful and calming stage presence, McCalla’s set focused on some Haitian folk music gems played mostly on Western instrumentation. McCalla herself played a cello, a guitar, and banjo at various points, all expertly.

These sweetly-sung, plaintive songs were interspersed with frequent musicological interludes by McCalla, explaining not only the songs and lyrics (sung in Haitian Creole/French) but how she discovered the songs and their meaning to her.

McCalla, violist Free Feral, and guitar/banjo player/husband Daniel Tremblay were joined several times by McCalla’s former Carolina Chocolate Drops colleague Dom Flemons. The softy teasing, almost sibling relationship between the two was warm and inviting.  Read more here.