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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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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
Independent
 
 
Chris Blevins
14 pts.
Better than Alone
Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
Poor David's Almanack
Acony Records
 
 
Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Independent
GC,RW
 
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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