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Carolina Chocolate Drops

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  • Rhiannon Giddens Wins Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award in North Carolina

    Rhiannon Giddens, co-founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, receives the 2014 Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award from St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, NC, today. The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina. "Honorees are persons who have, over a long period, been outstanding practitioners of their art," says Ron Bayes, distinguished professor of creative writing Emeritus, "and who have selflessly shared their talent with other creators, working in their primary genre and beyond."

  • BAM to Present Carolina Chocolate Drops with Twyla Tharp, Emmylou Harris's "Wrecking Ball" Tour

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has announced two one-night-only April concert events featuring Nonesuch artists Carolina Chocolate Drops with Twyla Tharp (April 10) and Emmylou Harris on her Wrecking Ball Tour with Daniel Lanois, Steven Nistor, and Jim Wilson (April 12). These two shows serve as precursors to BAM’s larger celebration of Nonesuch’s 50th anniversary this fall (the full slate of fall shows will be announced shortly). BAM has fostered a longtime artistic connection with Nonesuch and its dedication to cultivating outstanding talent in a wide variety of musical genres.

About Carolina Chocolate Drops

In early 2012, Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops released their studio album Leaving Eden produced by Buddy Miller. The traditional African-American string band's album was recorded in Nashville and featured founding members Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, along with multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and cellist Leyla McCalla, already a familiar presence at the group's live shows. With Flemons and McCalla now concentrating on solo work, the group's lineup now features two more virtuosic players alongside Giddens and Jenkins—cellist Malcolm Parson and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett—illustrating the expansive, continually exploratory nature of the Chocolate Drops' music. 

The Chocolate Drops got their start in 2005 with Giddens, Flemons and fiddle player Justin Robinson, who amicably left the group in 2011. The Durham, North Carolina-based trio would travel every Thursday night to the home of old-time fiddler and songster Joe Thompson to learn tunes, listen to stories and, most importantly, to jam. Joe was in his 80s, a black fiddler with a short bowing style that he inherited from generations of family musicians. Now he was passing those same lessons onto a new generation. When the three students decided to form a band, they didn’t have big plans. It was mostly a tribute to Joe, a chance to bring his music back out of the house again and into dancehalls and public places.

With their 2010 Nonesuch Records debut, Genuine Negro Jig—which garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy—the Carolina Chocolate Drops proved that the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music they’d so scrupulously researched and passionately performed could be a living, breathing, ever-evolving sound. Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they sought to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago. The virtuosic trio’s approach was provocative and revelatory. Their concerts, The New York Times declared, were “an end-to-end display of excellence ... They dip into styles of southern black music from the 1920s and ’30s—string- band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing, shouting.”

Rolling Stone described the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ style as “dirt-floor-dance electricity.” If you ask the band, that is what matters most. Yes, banjos and black string musicians first got here on slave ships, but now this is everyone’s music. It’s okay to mix it up and go where the spirit moves.

“An appealing grab-bag of antique country, blues, jug band hits and gospel hollers," says the Guardian, "all given an agreeably downhome production. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are still the most electrifying acoustic act around.”

Latest Release

  • Leaving Eden

    Leaving Eden

    On Leaving Eden, the Carolina Chocolate Drops follow their Grammy-winning album Genuine Negro Jig with a record of original compositions, covers, and traditional songs produced by Buddy Miller (Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Solomon Burke). They “may take their cues from 1920s string- and jug-band music," says USA Today, "but they're simply a great band.” The Observer calls them "the most electrifying acoustic act around." Rolling Stone gives the album four stars. The BBC says: "It's plain terrific."

On Tour

  • April 17, 2014 – 08:00 pmCapitol Theatre, York, PA
  • April 24, 2014 – 04:25 amWilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, NC
  • April 25, 2014 – 08:00 pmJefferson Theater, Charlottesville, VA
  • April 26, 2014 – 08:00 pmHarvester Performance Center, Rocky Mount, VA
  • April 27, 2014 – 08:00 pmEast Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
  • May 3, 2014, Memphis, TN
More Tour Dates

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