Dom Flemons, the Grammy-winning founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops will kick off Hancock Shaker Village's music in the barn series on Friday night. Before he made his trip to the Berkshires, he shared with us his playlist — a varied list of songs that shows just how talented and well versed this American songerster really is.
(See Flemons take the stage in the 1910 Barn Hayloft at 8 p.m. Barn doors open at 7. Tickets are $15 advance, $20 day of show. HancockShakerVillage.org)
What's your favorite ....
... toe-tapping song?
"Maybellene" by Chuck Berry: I cannot listen to this song enough times! Chuck Berry has always been an inspiration to me and I was sad to hear of his recent passing. "Maybellene" is the first single. This is the song that set the path for rock 'n' roll. It also shows a very interesting intersections of musical cultures. Having adapted the song from Bob Wills' "Ida Red," "Maybellene" shows its roots in country music as much as it does the blues. I remember the first time I watched the PBS documentary "The History of Rock 'n' Roll" and Chuck Berry changed my life! Look up a video of this entertainer strutting his stuff. The documentary "Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll" will reveal a complex figure who changed the world with his highly idiosyncratic music!
... folk song?
"Fishing Blues" by Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas: Henry Thomas is my all-time favorite folk musician of the 20s. He recorded 23 songs between 1927-1929 and they are truly masterpieces. Fishin' Blues is probably his best known from Taj Mahal's quintessential recording from the late 60s. John Sebastian did a great version as well with the Lovin' Spoonful. This song is a perfect example of the ever-evolving definition of a folk song. Fishin Blues is song with links to the early black vaudeville of the 19th century but in Thomas' hands it evolves into a tour de force with a banjo-like guitar strum and a set of "quills" or panpipes playing the melody. I have performed a version of this song for many years featuring my special "Songster" tuning. I recently put out two instructional DVDs through Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop, "Before the Blues" & "American Songster: The Many Voices of Dom Flemons"
... song with a stringed-instrument solo in it?
"La Bamba" by Jose Feliciano: Most people know Jose Feliciano's Christmas anthem "Feliz Navidad" but this live recording from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival will show people another side of this master of the six-string guitar. La Bamba is a classic Mexican folk song that has been recorded dozens of times. In his memoir, Mayor of Macdougal Street, folksinger Dave Van Ronk tells a story of playing at the 1964 Newport to great response only to be immediately followed by the 19-year-old guitar prodigy. When hearing this recording it is easy to see how Dave Van Ronk saw the crowd quickly forget about his performance and focus all of their attention on the talented young upstart. The confidence and exuberance of this performance jumps out of the speakers! One of the most famous recordings of La Bamba is from the late Richie Valens, one of the young musicians who passed "The Day The Music Died" Feb. 3, 1959, along with Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson aka The Big Bopper.
... breakup song?
"Trouble" by Cat Stevens: Many years ago, a friend of mine recommended a movie to me called "Harold and Maude." I watched the tattered VHS tape and it became one of my favorites movies. Part of this was from the amazing soundtrack provided by Cat Stevens throughout the movie. The soundtrack took tracks from Stevens' 1970 albums "Mona Bone Jakon" and "Tea for the Tillerman" and I went to the record store to pick up copies. I ended up liking "Mona Bone Jakon" the best and this track was a killer. It has a great melody and lyric.
... love song?
"Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)" by Carla Thomas: There is something truly irresistible about this early cut from Stax Records. I've always wondered why Carla Thomas really didn't get as big of a name as a lot of the other soul singers of the era. "Gee Whiz" is a lush recording and transports the listener into that feeling of love at first sight. One can still go to Memphis and visit the site of this many other amazing recording at the Stax Museum.
... song from a musical?
"The Song Has Ended" by Louis Armstrong with the Mills Brothers: This song was written by one of Broadway's greatest songwriters Irving Berlin. This rendition by the always elegant Mr. Armstrong and the ground breaking vocal group the Mills Brothers is a novelty delight that will truly amaze. The amazement comes from knowing that the only two instruments in the recording is Louis' one trumpet and the guitar. The other sounds including the second trumpet and the bass are the vocals of the Mills Brothers. I listen to this song when I want to go on a musical journey. Something in harmonies also create a psychedelic effect even though it is very straight ahead jazz number.
... song that tells a story?
"El Paso" by Marty Robbins: I have always loved the sound of Marty Robbins voice and El Paso is modern Western classic! It is hard to think that there was a time when this song did not exist.
... song to perform live?
"Til the Seas Run Dry" by Dom Flemons: This is a song I wrote for my album "Prospect Hill." I really wanted to write a jazz number that had a short verse to it. I always thought songs like that always had a great feel to them. As for the lyric, it is a definitive statement of defiance. Anyone can think of a time when they might have to tell someone goodbye because it was too late. Sometimes there is too much water under the bridge and there is no turning back. I like to play this one because I get to incorporate some harmonica playing into the live version. I end most of my shows with this number.