Traditional Voices Group (TVG) is pleased to announce that RiddleFest 2019 will take place Saturday, June 22, from 7–9 p.m., at the Burnsville Town Center. The event honors Yancey County native Lesley Riddle, an African- American musician who helped create the foundation for today’s country music. Grammy Award-winner Dom Flemons will headline.
“The very knowledge of an African-American presence in the foundation of country music speaks volumes of the complex cultural exchange of the South,” says Flemons. “I am proud to be a guitar picker who can honor the power and beauty of Lesley Riddle’s distinctive Piedmont fingerpicking style.”
Flemons is a music scholar, historian, record collector and multi-instrumentalist proficient on the banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, percussion, quills and rhythm bones. He has performed with leading musicians including Old Crow Medicine Show, Taj Mahal and Guy Davis, and performed as a soloist at prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Cecil Sharp House and the Grand Ole Opry.
In 2005, Flemons co-founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk in 2010. In 2016, the group was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. In 2018, Flemons released the album Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys, which spent 31 consecutive weeks on Billboard Bluegrass and charted on both Folk radio and Traditional Folk radio charts. In 2014, he released a critically acclaimed solo album Prospect Hill through Music Maker Relief Foundation.
“In his performances, Flemons combines master musicianship with a thorough knowledge of American music history,” says TVG vice president Ellen Denker. “From these talents he creates an experience for the audience that is both entertaining and enlightening.”
RiddleFest will begin with gospel tunes sung by the Griffith Chapel Singers, a small choral group associated with the church and family of Riddle. Bill and the Belles, house band for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, will follow. Their music and styling are inspired by the music of East Tennessee that was popularized out of Bristol in the late 1920s. The group is influenced by classic bandleaders including Riley Puckett, Bing Crosby, Leon Redbone, Buddy Holly and Merle Haggard. Their debut album, Dream Songs, was released to popular press acclaim in summer 2018.
“As the house band for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum we are entrenched in the music of the Carter Family of which Lesley Riddle played such a significant role,” says bandleader Kris Truelsen. “Without his influence the Carters would not have had access to the diverse repertoire they became known for. Lesley’s impact on commercial country music is truly remarkable and we’re excited to help celebrate his lasting influence and memory.”
A RiddleFest Seminar, Old Songs, Fresh Voices, is scheduled for 3-4 p.m. at the Burnsville Town Center. Flemons and Truelsen will discuss elements of old-time music that stimulate their songwriting and performance styles and demonstrate how they translate it for modern audiences. The seminar is free and open to the public.