Wednesday, March 10th: Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Beachland

9 03 2010

Carolina Chocolate Drops, tonight

(also subtitled, Folk Music Isn’t Just For White Folks. As if you didn’t know that.)

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a group of young African-American string band musicians that have come to together to play the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music from the Carolinas’ piedmont region. Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson both hail from the green hills of the North Carolina Piedmont while Dom Flemons is native to sunny Arizona.  They have been under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, said to be the last black traditional string band player, whose  musical heritage runs as deeply and fluidly as the many rivers and streams that traverse the North Carolina landscape. They carry on the tradition of black musicians like Odell and Nate Thompson, Dink Roberts, John Snipes, Libba Cotten, Emp White, and countless others who have passed beyond memory and recognition.

When most of people think of fiddle and banjo music, they think of the southern Appalachian Mountains as the source of this music. While the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina are great strongholds of traditional music today, they are certainly not the source. The nuances of piedmont stringband music stem from the demographics of the piedmont and thereby its focus on the banjo as the lead instrument. Among black ensembles, the banjo often set the pace and if a fiddle was present and it often was not, it served as accompaniment and not as the lead instrument as is more common in the Appalachian tradition. A guitar or mandolin would have been rare, but unheard of, in these bands but the foundation of this tradition lies rooted in the antebellum combination of fiddle and banjo. (adapted from the band’s website)

Carolina Chocolate Drops are three young black musicians revisiting, with a joyful vengeance, black strong-band and jug-band music of the Twenties and Thirties – the dirt-floor dance electricity of Mississippi Sheiks and Cannon’s Jug Stompers. Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker) is dazzling in its velocity and virtuosity, while the a capella lament “Another Man Done Gone” and waltz “Short Life of Trouble” ensure that you don’t miss the blues that drove those pioneers to make such defiantly ecstatic music. (ROLLING STONE CD Reviews: Fricke’s Picks)

LISTEN to what NPR’s said about the Carolina Chocolate Drops; Wired offers an insight into this trio from a technological standpoint; Bitch magazine offers an academic analysis of the band; Paste reviews their album, Genuine Negro Jig; and because we’d be remiss otherwise, read what the Cleveland Scene says.

Listen to their music at Nonesuch, find them on, or check out the following vids:

“Hit ‘Em Up Style”

Live in Chapel Hill

and from their label, Nonesuch:

For tickets to this show, head to We’re very pleased to have our good friends, educators and preservers of American musical heritage, Roots of American Music, involved with this show.





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