Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leaving Eden

Tad Hendrickson

By Tad Hendrickson

on 02.28.12 in Reviews

Leaving Eden

The Carolina Chocolate Drops
String band revivalists still offer plenty of sweetness and spice

The Carolina Chocolate Drops rose to prominence a few years back by reviving the African-American string band tradition, the roots of which go back as far as early 19th-century minstrelsy. Often wrongly filed under bluegrass, because band members switch off on vocals, banjo, jug, violin and other odds and ends, the trio succeeds largely because of its stunning musicianship. Rhiannon Giddens is one of the best vocalists working today, with the range of a gospel diva and the phrasing of a blues singer, particularly on the high and lonesome “Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man?” Co-founder Dom Flemons’s ability to express his intense love of this kind of music through voice, banjo and other instruments makes him a galvanizing storyteller – never is this more apparent on traditionals like the hard stomping “Riro’s House” and the rave-up “Po Black Sheep.” The band brings in multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and guest celloist Leyla McCalla to replace violinist/vocalist Justin Robinson and to add a more refined sonic palette; the band hasn’t missed a step, still offering plenty of sweetness and spice.