ELKO -- One of Dom Flemons’ goals in his performances is to get the audience thinking about and reanalyzing America’s past.
“I feel that’s really the true way we can progress as a country,” he said in a phone interview with the Free Press.
Elko residents and visitors will have an opportunity to hear Flemons at the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Flemons grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and now lives in North Carolina. Known as the “American Songster,” he pulls from a variety of old-time American music. It was just recently that he became reintroduced to cowboy music, he said.
“I’ve always admired and listened to them,” Flemons said. “… It’s something that’s been kind of in my blood for many years.”
The singer/songwriter draws some inspiration from his family background, from both black and Hispanic cultures. In particular, Flemons began researching the black cowboys that moved from the American South to the West. Many traditional western songs, such as “Home on the Range” and “Goodbye Old Paint” were composed after the writers learned the songs from blacks, he said.
The Gathering will be one of the first times he will perform a selection of songs created or inspired by black cowboys.
“It’s going to be great to share some of the music I’ve learned from my journeys,” Flemons said.
In the future, he has plans to create a cowboy themed album.
Flemons also fosters an appreciation of Mexican music, and uses a guitar strap similar to those he’s seen in Hispanic cultures.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of influence from both sides of my family,” he said.
Flemons will perform on the harmonica, banjo, quills, bones and guitar, and also plans to sing blues songs.
The bones will be featured in a special workshop on Friday. Flemons learned to play the folk instrument in 2005 after going to a North Carolina fiddlers convention. The bones, made of old cow rib bones or sometimes other materials, are a type of percussion instrument.
“I also played percussion in grade school,” Flemons said.
The bones are used frequently in square dance music and were popular in 19th century minstrel shows. Flemons will have some for sale at the workshop, he said.
Dom Flemons will also be featured in his own performance Thursday, the “Old Time, Good Time” performance Friday, and “Cowboy Crossroads: Blues on the Trail” Saturday. An autograph session is scheduled at 8:15 p.m. Friday in the Western Folklife Center gift shop.
For information, visit domflemons.com.