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CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS —LEAVING EDEN (Nonesuch Records)

 

www.carolinachocolatedrops.com 

www.nonesuchrecords.com 

North Carolina-based act, the Carolina Chocolate Drops have since their last record had a change of personnel. In that founder member Justin Robinson has left for pasture new and in his place comes multi-instrumentalist, Hubby Jenkins. A fine vocalist he has the fun of founder members Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens alongside new addition cellist, Leyla McCalla join him for the album and tour dates. 

 

Following in the steps of their last album, Grammy Award winning ‘Genuine Negro Jig’ the Carolina’s have this tine brought in acclaimed Americana musician, singer-songwriter Buddy Miller to produce the first record. It is a knock out too. From beginning to end they probe for new slices of work to accompany their take on traditional African American string band music. For we have lots of banjo, ragtime and hillbilly fare cooked in a skillet over an old belly pot stove. Their music pays homage to the old and at the same time sifts in eclectic strains of hip-hop (hard to believe but it is true) as Giddens sings of being a Country Girl and who, despite living ‘round the world she boasts there is nothing like living in the South. It is this through their affinity to traditional southern ways that the joy is transferred to the listener. The unit are also superb entertainers. Hot as a poker live they are likewise thoroughly entertaining on record and with the likes of ‘Boodle-De-Bum-Bum’ the fact is underlined ten-fold as ragtime and hokum blues meet.   

 

Among the treasures offered we have the sombre, reflective ‘Leaving Eden’ that speaks of meeting your maker and to leave all behind. It also features alongside Giddens’ gentle tones cello and, as a contrast ‘Read ‘Em John’ is an old as dirt African – American piece that is performed a cappella style with only the sound of hand clapping accompanying their fast and furious vocals. Mahalla is a warm, charming instrumental that shuffles along as a beautiful rhythm aids the banjo. Of a sharper feel altogether ‘West End Blues’ is a folklore type affair that speaks of how daddy was a dancing, while the title-track speaks of him going down to Georgia to find work and a whole more as a melancholy feel takes over. Beautiful it is too, and with Giddens sympathetic voice warmed by mandolin and cello etc it is a cornerstone piece. It is on of those songs you grow into the more your hear it.

             

‘Po’ Black Sheep’ pounds out a tune familiar with the south, and of a time 150 years ago. Hand clapping, knee slapping buck dancing fare where you have fiddle and banjo race head to head (aided by bones). Great stuff. Saturday night barn dance music as performed by those who once lived there. While of a cut and thrust feel there is ‘I Truly Understand’ and ‘Run Mountain’ that features pipes. Plus there is the banjo powered ‘Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?’ that has Giddens’ to the fore, singing with gusto as the band provided some hot footed picking. Isn’t it great old bluegrass standards gains a new lease of life like this. I can imagine many becoming mesmerised on hearing it when performed live! As for being mesmerised, ‘Pretty Bird’ (traditional) that closes the album is sung, a cappella style by Giddens and there can be few better at doing it in such fashion.

 

                                                Maurice Hope   

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April 2018

1
Courtney Marie Andrews
100 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
PK,CVL,DHO,JB,LK
2
Mary Gauthier
59 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
3
Caleb Caudle
49 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
TJ,TK,MP
4
Western Centuries
48 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
DD,GS,FS,HM
5
Vivian Leva
44 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
 
6
Ed Romanoff
42 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
7
Grant Peeples
41 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental
AN
8
Joan Baez
32 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
 
9
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
29 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
MF,HDB
 
Sam Morrow
29 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
JV
11
Chris Smither
27 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
JSM,JD
12
Michael McDermott
26 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
CRS
13
John Prine
24 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
SP
14
Mary Chapin Carpenter
23 pts.
Sometimes Just The Sky
Lambent Light Records
 
15
Dean Owens
22 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
PJ
16
6 String Drag
21 pts.
Top of The World
Schoolkids Records
FCE,JS
 
Haley Heynderickx
21 pts.
I Need To Start A Garden
Mama Bird Recordings
 
 
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
21 pts.
Tearing At The Seams
Stax Records
RM
19
Abe Partridge
20 pts.
Cotton Fields And Blood For Days
Skate Mountain
MVP,RK
 
Adam James Sorensen
20 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
BM
 
Ben Reel
20 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
 
 
Chip Taylor
20 pts.
Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records
LM
 
Kesia Nagata
20 pts.
Looking For Horses
Caramal Productions
GC,EZ
 
Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son
20 pts.
Clear The Table
SepiaPhone Records
SZ,PG
25
3hattrio
18 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
 
 
Marlon Williams
18 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans

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