Carolina Chocolate Drops

Carolina Chocolate Drops in 2007.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops are an old time band from Durham North Carolina.  Founded in 2005 all three members met at a banjo gathering that took place in the town of Boone of the same state.  The Carolina Chocolate Drops are unique in that they represent a type of musician rarely seen now-a-days, the black old time musician.  To those unknowing and uncaring old time is often pigeon holed as white hill billy music.  Why certainly “hill billies” played it as old time music was played by all types of people, poor/rich, north/south and black/white.  Certain styles indeed came from particular regions but the music itself owes it’s heritage to all Americans.  For example “Dixie”, one of the most popular old time songs made it’s debut in New York City in 1859 believe it or not but I digress… What the Carolina Chocolate Drops are doing is reviving the black experience of old time music.  They are doing this by learning from the few old timers that are left and still experienced in the craft.  Their task truly is important because this music is at risk of being lost forever, I think I can count the number of popular black old time bands on one hand.  Who’d a thought the banjo was brought to the states by Africans way back when.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops consists of three members, Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson.  These three can really get things going too.  To hear them playing in full swing you’d swear there are more then three people at the helm.  The music they play is mostly pure old time while they do mix in some bluegrass, blues, Celtic, contemporary and African numbers.  I find their music to be a breath a fresh air how they attack each song with such enthusiasm.  I’ve heard a few of their live recordings and they play with a such a consistency that easily the live recordings could be sold as studio albums.  And the whole time they play live they maintain a pleasant banter between themselves and the crowd sometimes even making jokes in the middle of a song.  Truly top notch performers they all switch around instruments during any given set.  They play a multitude of instruments 4-sting and 5-string banjos, fiddle, jug, harmonica, resophonic guitar, bodhran, tambourine, washboard, banjo-ukulele and they even sing too!

Currently there are three albums by Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Two official ones and a third with an extra member but basically the same sound and line up otherwise.  I can’t say I have a fave of the three they are all very consistent albums.  This is what their catalog looks like…

1) Colored Aristocracy [2005]
2) Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind [2006]
3) Heritage [2007]

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