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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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1
Rod Picott
70 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
GC,AN,LM,SZ,TK
2
JW Roy & The Royal Family
62 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,PJ,DH
3
Steph Cameron
61 pts.
Daybreak over Jackson Street
Pheromona
ML
4
JD McPherson
54 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
AR,RK,LK
5
Sarah Morris
53 pts.
Hearts In Need Of Repair
Independent
 
6
Turnpike Troubadours
52 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
MA,GF
7
Chris Hillman
51 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
 
8
Hayward Williams
39 pts.
Pretenders
Why River Records
KG,JB,JBO
9
Joe Henry
38 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
 
10
Jim White
37 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
JJ
12
Margo Price
35 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
 
11
Mark Martyre
35 pts.
Rivers
Independent
MF
13
Mavis Staples
32 pts.
If All I Was Was Black
Anti
HO
 
Peter Oren
32 pts.
Anthropocene
Western Vinyl
RB,HB
15
Fred Wickham
29 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
 
16
Jeffrey Martin
27 pts.
One Go Around
Fluff & Gravy Records
HDB
17
Blitzen Trapper
25 pts.
Wild and Reckless
Lojinx
JDO
 
Jeff Crosby
25 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records
FCE,FC,JS
19
Dori Freeman
24 pts.
Letters Never Read
Blue Hens Music
 
 
Hardpan
24 pts.
Hardpan
Blue Rose Records
WR
21
The Deep Dark Woods
21 pts.
Yarrow
Six Shooter
JF
22
Lilly Hiatt
20 pts.
Trinity Lane
New West
TJ
 
Tom Russell
20 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
JAB
24
Eilen Jewell
19 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
MW
25
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
FS

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