Grammy award-winning musician Dom Flemons kicks off his solo tour Wednesday at Cafe Nine in New Haven. Flemons is perhaps best known as the founder of the old-time string band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Flemons left the group in 2013 to pursue a solo career.
Flemons is a walking encyclopedia of early American popular music, from early blues and jazz to old-time country and folk, and he weaves those styles into his own music.
WNPR spoke to Flemons recently about his music and the countless connections old time music has to today’s music.
Dom Flemons on the connections between early “black” and “white” popular music...
For example, I’ve always admired the music of The Carter Family. I stumbled across stories about Lesley Riddle, an African American guitar player who influenced Maybelle Carter, and was also an essential part of A.P Cart collecting songs in the mountains. Legend has it that A.P. would collect the words and Lesley Riddle would remember the melodies. The two of them would collaborate together to create songs for The Carter Family.
When I hear those kind of stories, it lets me know that the music is far more interconnected than historians would let you believe.
On one of his musical heroes, Chuck Berry…
When I hear songs like “Maybelline” and “Johnny B. Goode,” I can hear music reminiscent of Henry Thomas or Papa Charlie Jackson from the 1920s and 30s, as well as someone like Jimmie Rodgers. And then, of course with Berry being from St. Louis, you can hear the piano culture from St. Louis, as well as the blues and earlier ragtime. You can hear all of those things mix together.
On his own music…
In any of the songs that I write, I try to make songs that are easy to recognize. That’s what amazes me about a lot of musicians who made big names for themselves, people like Muddy Waters or Hank Williams, they took the older music that was handed down to them, and they were able to make their own type of music. But the music is still rooted in the tradition they are connected to. And I like to do that with my own music.
Dom Flemons plays a solo show Wednesday night at Cafe Nine in New Haven.