The 25th Annual Southern Music Issue + free CD hits newsstands on December 5th, but you can pre-order yours today!



“The earliest recorded music, now over a century old, will never be truly understood by modern audiences,” Dom Flemons writes in our Tennessee music issue, after he’s exhausted all angles in pursuit of the meanings and motivations behind Gus Cannon’s “Can You Blame the Colored Man,” recorded in 1927. Flemons’s essay is a probing, revelatory biography of song, and it covers an indispensible chapter in our narrative of Tennessee: the string band music made in Memphis around the turn of the last century.

Since Dom spent so much time researching the song, we asked him if he wouldn’t mind recording his own version for us. Here is Dom Flemons performing Gus Cannon’s “Can You Blame the Colored Man.”

Dom Flemons

Dom Flemons is a songwriter, multi- instrumentalist, and slam poet. He is also a tradition bearer of American roots music. Among his honors are those from the Grammy Awards, the Living Blues Awards, and the International Folk Music Awards, as well as a 2020 United States Artists Fellowship in Traditional Arts. Flemons is the founding host of American Songster Radio Show on WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. His most recent album is Traveling Wildfire (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2023). “The Final Gift” is a new traditional ballad poem written and performed by Flemons, commissioned for this issue.