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.
By Andrew Parks on 08.19.14 in News
News of official Bob Dylan bootlegs are one thing; producer T Bone Burnett (True Detective, Inside Llewyn Davis) went one step further recently, asking Elvis Costello and members of Dawes, My Morning Jacket, Mumford & So...
By John Morthland on 07.25.14 in Features
The Music Maker Relief Foundation has worked with 300-plus Southern roots musicians to give their music a new life.
By J. Edward Keyes on 02.28.12 in Spotlights
Man. There are just so many new records today. Also, I think about halfway through this, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Trust, TRST: Behind the year's worst album cover is one of the year's best records. Super go...
By Peter Blackstock on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Carrying on the African-American string-band tradition of their mentor Joe Thompson, Durham, N.C., ensemble the Carolina Chocolate Drops focus squarely on the historic fiddle-and-banjo music of North Carolina's Piedm...