Review by Bokonon
American vernacular music.
In theory, it sounds about as much fun as a root canal. In practice, at least in the hands of Carolina Chocolate Drops, it’s easily as good as getting laid while drinking a milkshake and laying down a royal flush.
No, really. That good. They’re that good. And that was last year.
Now, with new members in the line-up, go ahead and toss a cherry and a shot of Scotch into that milkshake.
The Drops returned to The Egg in late January with multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and cellist Leyla McCalla in place of now departed fiddler Justin Robinson (he quit, he didn’t die). Old fans – that would be me, in both senses of the word – wondered what these young turks would bring in the stead of the fine Mr. Justin. I got learned. They brought the joy.
Jenkins, in particular, has senses of humor, style and taste. He knows when to play fast and flashy, when to cut a joke or a rug and, better yet, when to shut up and sit quiet.
These are skills Robinson had, too, even if he was a mite too quiet once in awhile. McCalla was actually at her best when thumping out bass lines on her cello. And her arco on “Leaving Eden,” the title track of the band’s upcoming album, was glorious.
But what of the others, the anchors, the wise ones.
They’re still there, singing songs like “Sourwood Mountain,” “Milwaukee Blues” and “No Man’s Mama.”
Dom Flemons. He in the hat. He still wants to be Mike Seeger. He still wants to turn every gig into a folk-fest workshop. And I still worship him for that.
Rhiannon Giddens. She who will one day marry me. (You will, Rhiannon. Just get over it and say ‘I do’ already). She still sings like the opera queen she is, while playing gut string banjo like a barefoot hillbilly girl.
With the addition of Jenkins, the Drops actually get one step closer to being the New Lost City Ramblers of the new century – but only if the Ramblers would have ever had the balls to cover Blu Cantrell. While drinking a milkshake.
Sara Foss’ review at Foss Forward
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “There is nothing you can’t hear in the music of the Chocolate Drops. The meter, the structure, the dynamics, the emotions, the rise and fall — all elements that fill every song on the radio today, regardless of the genre. In some ways, the music hasn’t changed in the past 100-plus years, and even further back, when it was brought to us from the slave ships. The Carolina Chocolate Drops do more than deliver these lessons — they deliver a full blown concert rich with excitement, entertainment and the American song.”