REVIEW: Dom Flemons’ celebration of Americana

Jul. 03, 2014 @ 10:23 AM

Dom Flemons. “Prospect Hill” (Music Maker Relief Foundation)

Want to start an argument? Have a discussion about the meaning of the 1960s. Something did happen during that decade that many can agree on. The decade produced some great music, during a time when we Americans began to appreciate our music – country, folk, jazz, blues, gospel, rock and roll.
That same ecumenical spirit comes through on multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Dom Flemons’ new collection, “Prospect Hill.” In his liner notes, Flemons says a visit to the Warren Store in Prospect Hill, North Carolina, inspired this recording. Slaves built the store in 1849, and it became a gathering place. The recording “is a meeting of a lot of ideas I’ve had in my mind for a few years,” among them “my passion for the many types of American music,” he writes.
The 14 songs and arrangements are traditional tunes Flemons has collected, and some originals. This thoroughly enjoyable record covers a lot of Americana. “’Til the Seas Run Dry” is a rocking tune inspired by early New Orleans jazz music. Flemons’ original “I Can’t Do It Anymore” is his homage to his love of rhythm and blues and early rock and roll. The classic song “Have I Stayed Away Too Long?” reminds me of the phrase of a late uncle of mine, who once boasted of having a juke box with “some of the saddest country music you ever heard in your life!” Flemons’ tempo on the arrangement takes away some of that sorrow, but the same cannot be said of his original ballad, “Too Long (I’ve Been Gone),” about being homesick on the road. Sad country music, absolutely.
I have some favorites. The traditional tune “Georgia Drumbeat” features Guy Davis’ harmonica playing, and has an infectious Chess Records, early Rolling Stones feel. Flemons’ fife playing on “Grotto Beat” is pure virtuosity, and “Marching Up Prospect Hill,” an improvisation with Davis on harmonica and Flemons playing bones, is gold.
Flemons has put together an ensemble with many local musicians – Brian Horton on sax, Keith Ganz on guitar, Ben Hunter on fiddle, and many more.
Buy this because it’s a great record, but also to get an education in American music.

RELEASE PARTY

WHAT: Release party for Dom Flemons’ “Prospect Hill”

WHEN: July 18, 9:30 pm.
WHERE: The Pinhook, 117 W. Main St., Durham
TICKETS: Advance tickets are $10. For information, visit www.thepinhook.com.

-- Cliff Bellamy, The Herald-Sun