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Carolina Chocolate Drops

Written by: Mark Loveless / Edited By: Rosemary A.W. Roberts

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Ten years ago if you would have made a comment about seeing a band that played multiple string instruments with cow bones and jugs, people would have rolled their eyes, turned their backs and walked away. Well, that is no longer the case these days. In fact there is a diverse string-band on the rise from the Carolina region that plays a style of Southern black music from the 1920s and ‘30s with a mix of jug band and early jazz. Seven years ago founding members Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons worked together to form Carolina Chocolate Drops (CCD), an old-time flatfoot dancing, jug playing and shouting band. “CCD is like taking old southern jazz with a twang of jug band, foot stomping and twist of black gospel music.”

Saturday night’s performance was unique and interesting in that it felt different from any other show I have attended in the past. Although it was a concert it felt like an early Saturday Mass. The doors opened at 6:30 and the show began shortly thereafter. It was not a packed and sold out show but as the band continued to play further into the night the place started to fill up with people. The crowd was diverse too. There were folks in their mid 40’s dressed in sport coats and casual wear but also a younger crowd of twenty-something’s. As the bluegrass music scene blossoms these days into a more jam grass scene it was interesting to see older bluegrass fans with the newer jam grass fans.

Although the crowd was diverse it was obvious that both factions knew CCD’s music frontwards and backwards. Flemons played an upbeat old blues tune, “Boodie-De-Bum-Bum” and I was amazed at the number of people that sang along as if it was a song they listened to everyday. Giddens showed off her beautiful range of vocals on a divorce song, “No Man’s Mama.” CCD did a great job getting the crowd involved into their set. CCD’s music dates back to the early 1920’s and so many instruments that were played during their set like cow bones most people had never seen. So the band gave a brief history lesson on each song they played, but they did not give out too much historical information, hoping you would research songs for yourself.

The band ended up playing two full sets and an encore that night. The memorable highlights of the night were a fast paced foot stomping sing along of “Don’t Get Trouble in Your Mind” and a classic “Cornbread and Butterbeans” from their Best Traditional Folk Grammy album, Genuine Negro Jig. “Cornbread and Butterbeans” was a classic historical song that instantly made you feel like you’re settled someplace in the South especially when Flemons started playing the jug. As the night continued on it felt more like an academic history lesson with a twist of old-time bluegrass. Listening to CCD will make you appreciate the roots of bluegrass music even more!

All photos taken by Phierce Photography by Keith Griner


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Annie Dominguez 12/01/2013 15:24:29
Been a fan of this group since Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind came out years ago. Truly as roots American music as you can get. They get local airplay on WHUM. Probably the only place outside of a college town that you will hear them. Love CCD!!!

Where was the show, btw?
Reply Great Comment I'm sorry, but this is wrong!
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Music review:

  • Performer(s): Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • Venue: The Vogue Theatre
  • Sponsors:
  • Concert date: 2012-11-17
  • Review Writer: Mark Loveless / Edited By: Rosemary A.W. Roberts
  • Editor rating: 5*

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