Tuesday, February 9, 2010

American Songster reviewed by Steve Jones

American Songster
Don Flemons
Music Maker
15 tracks/

No one plays roots music quite like Don Flemons. He delivers performances that are accurate, authentic, moving and quite fun to listen to. Flemons is quickly becoming an icon in blues and folk music. His band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has received much acclaim after performing hundreds of show worldwide and features Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson along with Flemons. The brand of roots music he and the band perform gives us a very fresh and updated take on the music that has been performed in the back woods and fields of America for hundreds of years.

This solo CD features Flemons doing 12 covers, 2 of his own songs and a cut by band mate Robinson. Featuring three songs by his musical hero Henry Thomas, a couple of Leadbelly cuts and an assortment of other goodies to delight the root music fan, the music transports the listener to a simpler time.

I saw Flemons and the Chocolate Drops most recently at the Old Town School of Music in Chicago. They are superb performers and uniquely talented individuals who can take jugs and kazoos and make sounds that the listener just marvels over. Their banjo and guitar work is exceptional. Flemons also adds bones, quills, fife and the bass drum to the music, giving it an old fashioned and realistic sound.

Whether it is a field holler-styled song, a dancing tune, or a ballad, Flemon’s vocals are impeccable as is his instrument work; this includes the quills (sort of an African pan flute). One has to marvel at the depth and extent of the man’s formidable talents. There are 15 fantastic tracks on this CD that will give listeners an idea of what music was like early in America’s history in old mountain towns and on he porches of homes on quiet back roads. He is a master at his craft, and every new song I hear from Don further impresses me. Roots music fans certainly need to get this CD and anyone with even the slightest interest in roots music and folk blues should buy this. It will not disappoint you and may even turn you into a big fan of roots music!

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