URBANA — The 14th annual C-U Folk and Roots Festival gets underway Thursday night at several different venues in Urbana.
One of this year’s festival headliners is the multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons, who has appeared at this event on several occasions, including 2021.
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Flemons, who calls himself “the American Songster,” is a talented vocalist who also plays guitar, harmonica, rhythm bones and several other instruments.
Illinois Newsroom’s Brian Moline spoke with Flemons this week, starting with why he relocated to the Chicago area two years ago.
“As the pandemic actually began, I was living in Washington, D.C., and all of my shows went down, and that included all of my educational programming,” Flemons said. “The family and I decided to move over to where my wife grew up, in the Chicago area.”
He says although things have improved for musicians recently, they’re still not back to where they were before the pandemic.
“It was much more comprehensive than just a single event,” Flemons said. “I’ll say that toward the second half of this year, things have started to take on a semblance of normality, but there’s still quite a ways to go. You’ve got venues that have gone down, and there’s folks that have found that the strains of the pandemic are just too much for them to handle.”
Flemons says he’s been able to forge some new musical relationships after his relocation to the Chicago area.
“One of my favorite collaborations is one that I did with Billy Branch, the wonderful Chicago blues legend,” he said. “He and I co-wrote a song together with another songwriter, Carl Gustafson. We wrote a song called ‘Nobody Wrote It Down‘ for an album called ‘Moja.’
“Because I moved out to the Chicago area, I have a lot better access to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee,” Flemons said. “I was able to put together a single of Elmore James’ classic, ‘Shake Your Money Maker,’ and I did a collaboration with my good friend Rev. Peyton and his group Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and we also had Colonel Steve Cropper from Booker T and the MG’s.”
Flemons performs Friday night at 7:00 at the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana, and again Saturday at 11:00am at the Urbana Free Library.
Below you can find the music featured during our interview with Flemons:
Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianMolineWILL.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said Flemons last appeared at the C-U Folk & Roots Festival in 2019. His last appearance was in 2021.