Dom Flemons – flying a flag for American folk

Dom Flemons will be playing a combination of musical styles for his gig in Campbell's.
Dom Flemons will be playing a combination of musical styles for his gig in Campbell's.

Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell – tribunegroove@live.ie

If you enjoy roots music, and especially Americana, then Dom Flemons’ gig in Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover, on Wednesday, July 27, is for you.

A former member of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dom plans to bring an intriguing mix of sounds to the venue, just outside Headford.

“I’ll be playing a combination of styles of American music, ranging from country blues to early ragtime, early jazz, and I’ll be doing some country,” he says. “I’ll also be interspersing older songs I’ve learned with original material.

“When it comes to performing, I have a few interesting instruments that I bring with me. One is an instrument called the quills, which is like a panpipe. They’re very old, they’re played everywhere, but there’s a small tradition of them in the States.”

Although this tour is celebrating the release of Prospect Hill, Dom is already working on its follow-up.

“The next album I have coming out is on the Alamo Black Cowboys,” he says. “I’ve been researching different songs associated with black cowboys. About one quarter of the cowboys who settled the West in the United States were black. It’s something that’s not that well known. Many of the most famous songs, including Home On The Range, are associated with them.”

A native of North Carolina, Dom Flemons is a champion of America’s folk tradition. He is involved with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works with traditional Southern musicians who have fallen on hard times. He recalls the case of the talented blues guitarist Boo Hanks.

“He was in this very ratty old trailer he’d had for 30,40 years before Music Maker met him,” Dom says. “Through the donations of their supporters, they were able to help Boo get a new trailer and heating oil for the winter. The idea is what can a couple of hundred bucks do for people who are living on less than $8,000 a year.”

On July 4, Independence Day, updated his Facebook profile picture to a photo of himself standing in front of a row of American flags. He also recently took on the name of The American Songster. In a year of more mass shootings and the increasingly divisive Donald Trump, is it fair to say that Dom is looking to celebrate the better side of American culture?

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.