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Dom Flemons - Prospect Hill / Knoxville Sentinel review

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With the Carolina Chocolate Drops Dom Flemons helped to reclaim a part of folk music that was mostly lost to history. While African-American string bands were common in the early 20th century, it was a true oddity to see a trio of young players of color with banjos and guitars in the 21st century. And how many people had actually seen musicians play bones as rhythm instruments? Flemons left the ‘Drops at the end of 2013, but his love of vintage sounds has not wavered on his new release "Prospect Hill." In fact, Flemons stretches a little further out with a little more ragtime, country blues, fife and drum and hokum songs.

Chocolate Drops fans will certainly miss the interplay that Flemons had with Rhiannon Giddens, Justin Robinson and, later, Hubby Jenkins, but it's good to hear Flemons stretching out on his own. Flemons is a likeable vocalist and has a style on several instruments that is so natural and adept that he could charm snakes. Aside from the singer-songwriter-sounding "Too Long I've Been Gone," Flemons keeps his style old. All that's missing from some of the songs to sound like they've come from the 1920s or ‘30s is the grit of a 78-rpm record. Highlights include the bawdy Georgia Tom Dorsey number "They Got It Fixed Right On" and "It's a Good Thing," a revival of a vintage song by the Beale Street Sheiks. There's also a peppy cover of Frank Loesser's "Have I Stayed Away Too Long?," which features a Boots Randolph-sounding sax that helps to give the song a little extra bounce, and "Grotto Beat" is a spirited fife and drum number that's built to make listeners move.

While the Chocolate Drops seem to edge ever-closer to the modern age, Flemons seems happy to keep uncovering the past and just giving it a fresh voice. One isn't better than the other. It's just good to hear Flemons keep digging.