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Dom Flemons Presents: Black Country

Dom Flemons Presents: Black Country
Dom Flemons Presents: Black Country | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

When I first stepped on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry back in 2008 with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Black country music was on the fringes of the mainstream music industry. Though Black country music was generally recognized as an influence on country music, Black performers appearing on the main stages of the country music genre were few and far between. Less than two decades later, I have seen a full transformation not only in the landscape of Black country music itself but also in how it is seen in the bigger world of country music. In one regard, Black country music is represented by the aesthetic of Black southerners whose rural folk song traditions and repertoires—such as the blues, ballads, western tunes, fiddle and banjo music, zydeco, and gospel—are part of what fueled the birth of country music. Another aspect is the reinterpretation of songs written in the country music style by Black performers. Their own unique twist on their white counterparts’ music creates unique “cover” versions that accentuate the power of Black aesthetics on the genre. Finally, the newest phase of Black country music comes from the reclamation and renewal of country music as a shared art form that represents the heart of the American soul. This acknowledgement and acceptance of a multicultural country music community gives way to the type of deep-rooted storytelling that continues to define the genre and the people who sing it. In this playlist, I have compiled a multitude of recordings drawn from the Smithsonian Folkways, Blue Ridge Institute, and Arhoolie Records catalogs that will showcase Black country music in all of its phases. The voices and instruments of each of these magnificent performers have guided and directed our ears to the present moment, where Black country music is no longer on the fringes but is now a larger part of the mainstream culture. I hope listeners enjoy this playlist I’ve curated, and I encourage everyone to use it as a resource.

As a resolute preservationist, storyteller and instrumentalist, Dom Flemons has long set himself apart by finding under-accessed folk songs and making them live again. He is deeply dedicated to creatively showcasing African American traditional music. His work has been recognized with a GRAMMY, two Emmy nominations, a U.S. Artists Fellowship Award, and inclusion in an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest album Traveling Wildfire showcases old-time material and originals, putting his own experiences at the fore.
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