Dom Flemons doesn’t expect to bring back the past, but dammit if he doesn’t love tipping his hat to it.
Earlier this year he released Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus as a 2-CD and Digital offering. A three-part journey, the project contains the original Prospect Hill album; the 2015 Record Store Daynine-track EP What Got Over and The Drum Major Instinct, a set of 12 previously unissued instrumental tracks.
The EP was originally a vinyl only release until now, but that’s not the news. The news is now Flemons is taking it a step backwards, but not to 8 tracks. Not even to vinyl. He’s going back before records all the way to the phonograph.
In an unprecedented move, Flemons and Omnivore have released an Edison cylinder of the song “I Can’t Do It Anymore,” making him the first recording artist of the 21st Century to do release such a thing.
“The wax cylinder is considered a remnant of the past but when the first personal cylinder players were introduced to the world by Thomas Edison in 1890, they were not only considered modern, they were cutting edge technology,” explains Flemons. “For the first time a person could hear themselves back on a Gramophone in a form that was easy to record and retrieve for multiple listens. This not only transformed popular music but changed the study of ethnomusicology. Folklorist like John A. Lomax could capture the obscure voices hidden within the heartland of America, which opened up potentially marginalized music to wider audiences around the world.
“I chose to release this original song both digitally and on a wax cylinder as a way to present the older technology and juxtaposed it to the modern streaming standards of recorded music. In the 21st century, we are now at a crossroads because we have reached the 100-year threshold of American popular roots music that first began with wax cylinder recordings as early as the 1890’s.”
Another finger touch to the past, the cylinders are made from 1920 recording blanks. While the safe bet is the Flemons manufacturing of this Edison cylinder won’t revolutionize the music industry again, there is no denying what an incredibly cool and unique treat this is for audiophiles and lovers of music history. New music on such an old medium? Even cooler is the fact that an extremely small number of twenty copies were hand made by Benjamin Canaday (the Victrola Guy) and then both hand signed and individually numbered by Dom and are available while they last.
As the saying goes, sooner or later everything old is new again.
If you like what you hear, go ahead and make a purchase!