Welcome to WUNC's new podcast called American Songster Radio. Every month host Dom Flemons, a.k.a. The American Songster, will present a new take on traditional music.
Dom, a co-founder of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, will be inviting a variety of guests to join him in a journey of discovery through the worlds of traditional folk song.
Here's a YouTube video of Dom making a wax cylinder recording. He'll talk about this experience in an upcoming episode in this series.
Q: What are your hopes for American Songster Radio?
A: My hope with American Songster Radio is to get people to think critically about the music they listen to on a day-to-day basis. While not all music is meant for critical thinking I find it so important to always remember that music is a reflection of a society. It is a way that people can bridge gaps socially because music is truly universal. But to think about it critical takes its own set of skills and on my program I want to help people look at music in a way that will give them skills to look at other types of music. I feel it is through personal research and personal conclusions that can truly affect us which is why we listen to it in the first place. It has also been my belief that the more I have learned through critically listening and researching different songs that I have found a strong sense of my own national identity. Hence the name The American Songster.
Q: What kinds of things will you be featuring?
A: In my program, I will talking with various musicians, scholars and enthusiasts about something we all love: music. The idea is to not only discuss music but to also take some time to speak with my guest about what brought them into music. When interviewed Arhoolie Records, Chris Schtrawitz, I was amazed to hear that his story began in Germany and that his family fleeing the Nazis led him to California and to his love of American folk music. This is not that uncommon. All of the guests on my shows have made careers using American folk and roots music as their conduit and many times their personal stories are just as interesting as the people whose work they themselves documented. Other musicians are newer to the roots music scene. I am a strong advocate for getting their music out and also taking to catch them at the early parts of their careers when their thoughts about this music are only developing. Ultimately, it is about friends and colleagues getting together to share stories and some of the guests are people I have known for a long time and in the show we will take time to ask them questions that veer away from the normal questions one might hear elsewhere.
Q: Your podcast celebrates music that is at times more than a century old. What speaks to you about this music?
A: I have always been drawn to history and literature. I have found a wonderful conglomeration of both in the folksongs of every country in the world. I just happen to focus on the United States as I feel there are so many songs that haven't been heard by the listening public in general. Just because I song was written or sung a century ago means that it has stayed in the American consciousness. The same can be said about performers. A performer that was the biggest star of his era could be completely lost in time but through the power of recorded technology we have documentation that they were there. I have been completely floored again and again by amazing recordings by people who are now lost in the mists of time. I feel it is time to look back at the brilliant musical culture produced in our brilliant and at times disturbing nation.
Q: The first two episodes feature interviews with Ketch Secor from Old Crow Medicine Show and Bill Ferris from the Center for the Study of the American South. Do you have any dream guests?
A: I would love to interview a variety of people. Many I've met on the road and others I have just seen in the paper. Recently met a wonderful cowboy singer named Don Edwards who is a truly a master of his craft. He'd be great. Steve Martin. Bela Fleck. Bradford Marsalis. Stefan Grossman. Guy Davis. Janelle Monae. Mos Def. Willie Nelson. That's just a few but my dreams are pretty far reaching all around. the main thing is everyone has a story. Every well-known musician has a story of being a "folk" musician or the moment they heard that song or record that made them say "That's what I wanna do!" I find that the journey is as interesting as the full story being told.
Q: How often will we get new episodes?
A: We’ll have something new for you every month.