As I was getting ready to go out the other night, my teenage son was doing the same. With his Spotify playlist blasting through the computer speakers, I heard a Patti Smith song and paused to tell him the story about the time I was on my way to an Elvis Presley concert back in 1975. I stopped by at a party celebrating Patti’s debut album. Just for a minute or two. A quick drink. Going to hear the King. I heard a scream. I watched as Patti crawled across the club floor, up the stairs to the stage and just screamed again while laying on her back. Then the music started.
It was the darnedest thing. I stayed.
My son…his musical palette is diverse. When a Tom Paxton song came on next, that set me off talkin’ about when I heard him at a Gaslight reunion a couple of years ago. Steve Earle was there, and so was Patrick Sky. I had nothing to offer about the thrash metal band whose song that followed.
While he went off to to play Dungeons and Dragons with friends, I headed northeast for the opening night of this year’s American Roots series at the Caramoor Center for Music and The Arts, located about an hour north of Manhattan. ‘American Songster’ Dom Flemons, on a tour supporting Prospect Hill, his first solo album since his departure from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, was the headliner. Kristin Andreassen and Jefferson Hamer opened the show playing together as a duo.
On a sprawling estate in a sea of snow and ice yet to melt, the concert was presented in the Music Room, a warm and cozy space with its Renaissance furniture, needlework chairs, Italian maiolica pottery, Gothic tapestries and modern sculptures. While perhaps a far cry from the front porch of an old homestead in the hills of Virginia or a club in Brooklyn, if you want to hear roots music in a beautiful acoustically balanced venue where you can casually interact with the musicians after the show, this fits the bill.
I’ve been listening to Kristin for over a decade, although admittedly it’s only in the past year that I was able to connect the name with the voice. A fan of the bands Uncle Earl and Sometymes Why, it was during her set at this year’s Brooklyn Bluegrass Bash that I came to learn that she had been with both.
With her new album Gondolier picking up airplay and interest in the roots community (No Depression featured her first video) and beyond (CMT, The Bluegrass Situation), seeing her perform in this setting allowed her to show off her talents in solo and close harmony singing, guitar, harp, uke, body percussion and dance. She presented several offerings of her new music which simply sparkles, and Jefferson added his to the set list, including at least one from the critically acclaimed Child Ballads album that he released with Anais Mitchell.
Dom Flemons is a force of nature and a showman; whirling around the stage from instrument to instrument, spinning yarns and telling tales of the great country and blues musicians from the past, alternating from original material to old time songs that would be lost forever if it wasn’t for his respect and care in keeping it alive.
With his set divided between both solo work and his trio that included Mike Johnson on percussion and Brian Farrow on bass, it’s a roller coaster of entertainment and musical heritage not to be missed. He brought Kristin back up to do some clog dancing, sing and play the harp and in an unusual moment of personal coincidence, spoke lovingly of the Tom Paxton whom he met at Folk Alliance. This song from his new album is one he wrote with him in mind.
Something that makes both Dom and Kristin special beyond their talent, is that each spend time working with different programs that give back to and nurture the music community in different ways. Dom is a board member for the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. And Kristin, along with Laura Cortese, founded Music of Miles Camp which hosts all-ages music workshops for both amateur and professionals in Brooklyn, Boston and a week-long summer retreat in New Hampshire.
Next up for Caramoor’s American Roots series is Willie Watson and Cricket Tells The Weather on April 11, followed by their annual festival on June 27 (Kristin will be there) with Lucinda Williams headlining. July 10th brings the ‘I’m With Her Tour’ with Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan.
I’m going to close out this final Weekly Broadside with Kristin’s new video. Next week I debut a new column, exclusive to No Depression. Whatever we call it, keep comin’ back.
The song is “Lookout”
An appropriate title.