The American Songster Captivated a Full House
I cannot say I have seen Dom Flemons perform ‘many’ times, but I have seen him enough to recognize that he is one of the most engaging, knowledgeable, and talented musicians touring today. The show this week at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts was as good a show of Dom’s as the others I have seen.
One could not have requested a more perfect evening. The temperature was perfect, the breeze slight, and the humidity almost non-existent. Oh yeah, and the music was sublime.
Dom came to the stage alone for the first number, and played the bones and harmonica. I am always impressed when a musician plays two instruments simultaneously, but playing the bones at the same time as another instrument seems much more difficult to me than, say, guitar and harmonica. I am always impressed with Dom’s aptitude on the bones, as well as the authenticity the bones add to some of the old-timey music Dom performs.
After the solo number, he brought the other two members of his trio to the stage. Brian Farrow played bass and fiddle, which Tariq Muhammed played drums. Brian has been a member of Dom’s trio for almost a year and their chemistry is obvious. This is the first time I have seen Tariq and enjoyed his performance.
Dom is an ethnomusicologist; he must spend as much time studying the music, and possibly more time, as he does playing it. His knowledge of African-American folk and blues is deep, and he loves imparting it to his audiences. I learned of many fantastic musicians from Dom; people such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Scrapper Blackwell.
Dom released his most recent solo album, Prospect Hill, last year and continues to perform from it as well as his previous releases. They performed one of the songs I enjoy most from the album, ‘Hot Chicken’, written by Dom about the Nashville food phenomenon, hot chicken. People may disagree about which restaurant (I use that word loosely) makes the best hot chicken, but nobody can argue that Dom’s song is anything less than a grand celebration of a wonderful food tradition! (For anyone interested, Bolton’s was recommended to me as being the best and I loved it!)
Other songs on the set list were ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’, ‘San Francisco Baby’, ‘But They Got It Fixed Right On’, and ‘Ol’ Cindy Gal’ from his previous release, American Songster. All good choices and crowd favorites!
Dom bridges divides – racial, socioeconomic, gender – and brings people closer with his music. I know I leave his shows thinking that not only does music express feelings about what is going on in the world but it is able to change the way people think and act.
Opening the show was Thick Wild, a Boston-based indie folk band. Fronted by Amelia Emmet on guitar and accordion, they delivered a short set of good music. I especially enjoyed the last number which was performed not only a cappella but standing a bit behind the mics so their voices were mostly unamplified.
I will see Dom and his trio perform as often as I can; they are engaging and interesting to watch and hear. If you have never seen them, and even if you have, see them again. And again. And again.