By Eric Thom
Traveling Wildfire marks the transition of an inveterate explorer and musical historian to one who has grown beyond the limits of expectations.
1. Slow Dance With You
2. Dark Beauty
3. If You Truly Love Me
4. Traveling Wildfire
5. It’s Cold Inside
6. We Are Almost Down To The Shore
7. Nobody Wrote It Down
8. Saddle It Around
9. Big Money Blues
10. Old Desert Road
11. Rabbit Foot Rag
12. Tough Luck
13. Song To JCB
14. Guess I’m Doing Fine
15. Songster Revival
One-time Carolina Chocolate Drop, Dom Flemons is a well-established purveyor of Piedmont-styled string-band music and dogged student of American roots music.
Schooled in the R&B of his parents' music collection, a young Flemons migrated towards American roots music of all kinds, delving deep into the history of blues and folk – and further into the origins of African, African-American and African-Caribbean music. It’s little surprise that he came to uncover his own distinct voice through all this cultural excavation.
Now, with Traveling Wildfire, he continues to break new ground; moving well beyond his American Songster reputation to bring greater levels of experimentation to his sound.
Gifted with an elastic vocal ability and mastery over countless instruments – including guitar, banjo, drums, percussion, jug, bones and quills – Flemons joins forces with producer Ted Hutt to yield Travelling Wildfire’s ten originals, one co-write and four hand-picked covers.
What follows is a further evolution of the shape-shifting creativity which propels Flemons’ song-writing, blending highly personal lyrics borne of a dramatically-changed world to the music that fits them best – regardless of genre. Like an expert painter, he carefully colours each composition with complementary hues and accents to arrive at much more than he started with. Like a true progressive, he takes risks.
Take the contrast between the lilting country waltz of ‘Slow Dance With You’ or the sad and lonesome sounds of ‘If You Truly Love Me’, with the incendiary ‘Song to JCB’ (Eric Anderson’s tribute to blues singer/harpist J.C. Burris), that’s sparked by a crisp drumbeat, acoustic guitar, and high-energy harp.
From the fiddle-fire (Sam Bush) cover of Dylan’s ‘I’m Doing Fine’ to the bittersweet sting of highlight ‘Nobody Wrote It Down’, Flemons proves himself a master of expression. His musical palette fully embraces country and blues, field hollers and gospel, bluegrass and folk, as he creates a full spectrum of textures through his choice of instrumentation and expert players.
Lest anyone forget his remarkable virtuosity as a musician, one quick spin of the instrumental, ‘Run Rabbit Run’ – accompanying himself on guitar and jug - quickly demonstrates Flemons’ ability to transport the traditions of the past well into the future.
Like its namesake, Traveling Wildfire starts off slowly and builds to a near-inferno, marking the transition of an inveterate explorer and musical historian to one who has grown beyond the limits of expectations. Flemons uses all that he has learned to move that much closer to authoring his own story.
8 / 10
Dom Flemons' 2023 album, Traveling Wildfire, is released March 24th, 2023 via Smithsonian Folkways. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:
To see all the country albums being released in 2023 and their release dates, see below: