Dom Flemons, The American Songster

Dom Flemons, a talented roots singer and multi-instrumentalist, known to the public as the “American Songster,” performed a lively set @ The Burren in Somerville last night.

domColor-7

Dom Flemons

 

In the second half of the show, Flemons spoke to the intimate audience about the making of his new album Prospect Hill, which features both original and traditional blues and old-time tunes. Watch one of his most popular songs, “Polly Put the Kettle On,” here:

 

 

Flemons is an intelligent and thoughtful musician. He makes a point of highlighting the undocumented narratives of black music in the US. Flemons is working to reclaim the meaning of minstrel songs, which were performed by traveling musicians in the 19th and early 20th centuries wearing blackface, by performing them in his own style. The following video is his interpretation of the minstrel tune “Can You Blame The Colored Man?”:

 

 

As a scholar of roots music, Flemons presents the nuances of the history of blackface minstrelsy. In his article “Can You Blame Gus Cannon?” he discusses the reasons why a black musician such as Gus Cannon would choose to wear blackface and participate in a tradition that blatantly mocked black musicians. Flemons writes, “In his music I heard minstrelsy, but I could also hear a novel, legitimate black art form developed from minstrel roots.”

 

 

Local Listening: Martin Grosswendt & Susanne Salem-Schatz / Bertrand Laurence @ the Blackstone River Theatre

This Saturday, March 21st, country blues and folk musicians Martin Grosswendt and Susanne Salem-Schatz will perform at the Blackstone River Theatre, followed by Bertrand Laurence, a master of the art of country blues fingerpicking and slide guitar.

Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door.

For more information, visit www.riverfolk.org.

________________________

 

Martin Grosswendt has been exploring the roots and branches of American acoustic music for more than 40 years. Musicians and critics have called him, among other things, a national treasure and a rumor in his own time. In fact, a single label can’t do justice to Martin’s dynamic musical talents. An extraordinary instrumentalist and powerful singer best known as an interpreter of 1920s and ’30s blues, his mastery of numerous regional styles on guitar, mandolin, five-string banjo, and fiddle make his concerts events that audiences don’t soon forget. His performances encompass the breadth and depth of Southern roots music, from classic Delta and East Coast blues to early country music to Creole and Cajun music. His love for a good song also moves him to perform material from such modern songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt and Richard Thompson. In addition to his teaching and solo work, Martin performs frequently as a duo with the remarkable singer Susanne Salem-Schatz who will also perform tonight. Martin plays and sings with Salem-Schatz in the Boston-based band Honky Tonk Masquerade.

Bertrand Laurence plays traditional, contemporary, and original blues as well as an eclectic mix of swing tunes, jump blues, ragtime, boogie, bluesy show tunes, rockabilly,… even blues sung in French! Inspired by childhood heroes, Laurence tries to recapture in his music the exuberance of Jelly Roll Morton and the rocking guitar style of Big Bill Broonzy. Having spent a number of years as a performance artist, Laurence also knows how to put on a show and his time working at a homeless shelter also taught him the healing power of the blues. “I like to focus on the upside of the blues,” he says. “I’m into joy and celebration.” His CD, “La Vie en Bleu” shows Laurence at his best, fingerpicking his way through a diverse collection of intrumentals on six-string, twelve-string and slide guitar, and singing blues in both English and French.