Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now: Carolina Chocolate Drops

It's part II of Now and Later with My Friend Matt with the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

So, fair is fair. Matt actually heard about the Carolina Chocolate Drops from a co-worker who attended last weeks Rockygrass Festival in Lyons, CO while I was romping and stomping in North Park, Colorado and Encampment, Wyoming. But, I give credit where credit is due and it was dear Matt who told me I HAD to check out this band. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are African-American musicians out of the Carolina Piedmont region. Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, both on the 5-string banjo and fiddle hail from North Carolina while Dom Flemons (4-string banjo, guitar, jug, harmonica, kazoo, snare drum, bones) came from Arizona. Yes, you read it correct, he does play the jug and bones (see video below). According to their site bio, their goal is to continue the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music in Carolina's’ Piedmont. It doesn't hurt that their supervisor (of sorts) is Joe Thompson, considered the last black traditional string band player. Unfortunately I missed their Colorado appearance last week. But, they are still on national tour and those of you lucky enough to be in Nashville in the fall can watch the Carolina Chocolate Drops play with Old Crow Medicine Show at the famous Ryman Auditorium.
I learned a bit of history concerning the differences between what I consider traditional bluegrass/banjo and fiddle music and the style specific to the Piedmont region. Here's what their site had to say:
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 not unheard of, in these bands but the foundation of this tradition lies rooted in the antebellum combination of fiddle and banjo. -
And, now you know.

Without further ado, here are the Carolina Chocolate Drops, definitely not to be confused with Zonday's Chocolate Rain.

Carolina Chocolate Drops-Short Life of Trouble

Here's quick in-studio video where you can see Dom on the bones and jug. But, if you want to see a full concert, the Fab Channel is a click away.
Cornbread and Butterbeans

1 comment:

C + O said...

love this highlight. especially love the NC piedmont shoutout. hometown love.