Carolina Chocolate Drops: Concert Review

You may have never heard of an all-black bluegrass band before, but Carolina Chocolate Drops is definitely a band you should be listening to. If you like good, old fashioned, bluegrass, then you will adore this music. Their bio reads like a good movie or book plot. Don Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson traveled to Mebane, NC to learn from 80-year-old Joe Thompson. Joe was an old-time fiddle player who learned music the best possible way, passed down generation to generation through his black ancestry. From their regular visits with Joe, these musicians quickly learned the ways of mountain bluegrass and black string bands. They soon formed their own band, and now strive to preserve this time honored musical tradition. Their latest album, Genuine Negro Jig, was released in February 2010.

Nightfall is a series of free concerts held in Chattanooga, TN during the summer months and hosts a bevvy of new and upcoming artists. Carolina Chocolate Drops was the headliner for a comfortable late summer night in September. The crowd was larger than normal for this performance, and as soon as they opened with “John Henry”, it was easy to see why. This band’s sound and enthusiasm for their style of music was palpable. As they continued on with songs like “Cornbread and Butterbeans” and “Snowden’s Jig (Genuine Negro Jig)”, it was as though the band was able to transfer that energy and excitement at playing such heartwarming songs and melodies straight into the crowd. Soon people were dancing, clapping hands, and having a great time. They played originals and covers alike, each song receiving the same care and attention as the previous. Everyone felt a warm touch of nostalgia at hearing “Why Don’t You Do Right?”, and young and old grooved to their cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style”.

Overall, this show was a joy to attend, and the on stage performance was spot on, with everyone giving 110%. If you get a chance to hear them live, please go. It is well worth it, and the music translates so well onto the CD, that one feels like they are at the concert again when listening to it.

You can get “Hit ‘Em Up Style” for free here on the Gravy and Biscuits July Mix Tape!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Genuine Negro Jig on Amazon

By Josh McRae

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