Tonto had the Lone Ranger. Roy had Dale. Batman has Robin. What did they have ? Friends, life would be impossible without them.

Dom Flemons, The American Songster may not be a superhero to some, but I like to call him my friend. Flemons’ life is about to change. He announced today (February 14, 2018) the release of an 18 track CD project.

Tom Ketchum, Bill Pickett, Nat Love, and John Ware are just a few of the famous black cowboy names that we all remember. In fact, there is an astonishing 1 of 4 (about 25%) of the cowboy settlers in the west that were black. These cowboys worked alongside white cowboys and the Mexican vaccaro, but many times they have been left in the dust. With February being celebrated as Black History month, Flemons’ release of Black Cowboys is perfectly timed.

Dom has been out on tour, but has not slowed down his studio production at all. In the recent past, Flemons was forefront at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held in Elko, NV, where he hosted a bones workshop for fellow enthusiasts of all ages. While in Nevada, Flemons performed at The Roots of the Cowboy Session. Being a Grammy award winning musician, singer-songwriter, and slam poet who got his start playing local coffee houses, Dom Flemons maintains the ability to continue to be a songwriter who appeals to contemporary audience.

Read more here.

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 3.05.16 PM

unnamed-1

Dom Flemons’ new album Black Cowboys is, in some ways, a lifetime in the making. First inspired by his family’s roots in the region, Flemons, known for both his solo work and as a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, chronicles the rich, deep history of Black music in the American west, a history that has often been ignored or white-washed despite its massive contribution to the canon of American music.

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 2.57.04 PM

Songs on the album include beloved standards like “Home On The Range” and “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” as well as original songs like “One Dollar Bill” and “He’s A Lone Ranger.” The accompanying booklet features extensive liner notes, historical photographs, and a portrait of Flemons by artist William Matthews. Flemons is releasing the project via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings’ African American Legacy Series.

Read more here.

unnamed-6

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 2.56.12 PM

The cowboy is still the mythical meaningful figure in America. The drovers and cowboys expanded not only the territory of the United States to the west and were ideological prototypes of the American individual who stands for freedom, independence, strength and reliability, they have also made an important contribution to music history with their cowboy songs. The cowboy is in the public perception is always white and Anglo-Saxon. That this does not correspond to the historical facts, but that a good 25 percent of the Cowboys end of the 19th century, African-Americans and that the black cowboys have greatly influenced the genre of cowboy songs, this is the core of the album Black Cowboys , the Dom Flemons has published these days.

Read more here.

unnamed-1

What makes a song a folk song, anyway?

One familiar answer is that a folk song is a song without an author. Folk song scholars even have a name for the theory that some songs emerge without any one person composing them. They call it “communal creation.”

But by the mid-20th century, that same intellectual community was doing a lot of head scratching over how, exactly, a song could exist without someone in particular making it up. The documented histories of the songs we call folk songs bear out this uncertainty.

Take the cowboy song “Goodbye, Old Paint” for example. It seems like an easy fit with the folk song category. It has no precisely known author, after all. But is it really anonymous?

Read more here.

RootsofCowboyMusicConcert.jpg

I have been privileged to see Dom Flemons, also known as the American Songster, many times and he always delivers a great performance so I did not hesitate to make the drive to Common Fence Music to see him.

Dom Flemons

I think of Dom as an ethnomusicologist; his knowledge of African-American music and its history is encyclopedic. He obviously enjoys imparting that to his audiences and I believe we come enjoys learning that rich history.

Dom Flemons

Dom had recorded an album of Black cowboy songs that will be released early next year and he treated us to a number of songs that will appear on the album. There is a rich history of Black cowboys and I look forward to getting that album!

Read more here.

When cowboys come to mind, they may be real-life people turned legends — Billy the Kid, or Wyatt Earp, or Annie Oakley, let’s say.  Or they may be fictional — Hopalong Cassidy, or the Marlboro Man, or one of many roles featuring John Wayne.

All of these cowboys are white.  And that overlooks history: there were also black cowboys, and they played an important role in the American West.

Musician Dom Flemons has been thinking a lot about those cowboys, and his forthcoming album features their songs. Flemons joins us from the studios of WBEZ Radio in Chicago.

On Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 2 p.m., he’ll be at the Winchester Cultural Center in Clark County, NV. And next week he performs at the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko.

 

QUICK Q AND A WITH DOM FLEMONS

Dom Flemons is a fount of knowledge about all kinds of music, but most importantly, he has enriched the world with his thorough and entertaining tales about the American Songster tradition.  Dom has dug deep into music and has taken his role seriously.  His shows are not only impressive from a musical standpoint, but he gives the audience a lot to think about—how this traditional music of the past influences today’s culture.  Dom is a master at what he does.  He’s a multi-instrumentalist, prolific songwriter and outstanding researcher, and an incredible presence on stage.

Dom Flemons is appearing at the me&thee coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA. He will also be sharing his talent and musical wisdom with the fourth and fifth graders in Marblehead due to the generosity of the me&thee and the Newport Festivals Foundation.

Read more.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.27.48 PM.png

World-renown folk musician, singer-songwriter and slam poet Dom Flemons performs at the 2017 New York Guitar Festival, presented by WNYC Studios’ New Sounds.

Dom Flemons: ‘Hot Chicken’

 

Don Flemons: ‘Too Long I’ve Been Gone’

Dom Flemons: ‘Steel Pony Blues’

 

Dom Flemons: ‘Til The Seas Run Dry’