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  • Wednesday, April 15, 2009
    Nonesuch Records Signs the Carolina Chocolate Drops
    Julie Roberts

    Nonesuch Records is proud to announce the signing of North Carolina–based trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a young string band in the centuries-old Piedmont banjo and fiddle musical tradition. The group’s members—Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson—all trade duties as singers and swap instruments, too. The band, which has toured continuously since its formation in 2005, has several US concert dates this spring before taking a summer sabbatical, during which Giddens is expecting her first child. For upcoming tour dates, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour. They will resume touring in the fall; their label debut is scheduled for early 2010.

    Old-time Southern string music is often associated with Caucasian musicians from Appalachia, not African-Americans from the North Carolina Piedmont. But as Giddens pointed out in a recent NPR interview, “It seems that two things get left out of the history books. One, that there was string band music in the Piedmont, period. And that ... black folk was such a huge part of string tradition.” Carolina Chocolate Drops seek to not only correct this misunderstanding, but to keep the old-time string music tradition alive.

    The group was formed after Flemons, Giddens, and Robinson met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC. They have learned that tradition under the tutelage of Joe Thompson—who at age 90 is believed to be the last living performer from the Piedmont string band heyday. Their repertoire is centered around the traditional music of the early twentieth century but also includes original material as well as a show-stopping cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2001 single “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”

    The members of Carolina Chocolate Drops come from diverse musical backgrounds. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Dom Flemons has immersed himself in music of the past, with a prodigious record collection and an immense knowledge of the different playing styles of the blues, country, and string band traditions. His influences include Ma Rainey, the Beatles, and the Band. As a part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons uses his harmonicas for additional melody, and his jug and guitar root the band’s rhythm.

    Rhiannon Giddens, a Piedmont native, grew up with the sounds of bluegrass from one side of her family and classic blues and jazz records on the other. After graduating the Oberlin Conservatory, she fell into contra dancing and became inspired by the Roundpeak–style old time bands she heard at the dances. She worked extra jobs to buy her first banjo and fiddle, and hasn’t looked back since. Giddens’ style is heavily influenced by the playing of Joe and Odell Thompson. She also calls contra and social dances, and is working on playing and calling simultaneously.

    Justin Robinson is the group’s main fiddler and also plays banjo. He grew up in a house full of musicians—his mother is a classically trained opera singer and cellist, his sister a classical pianist, and his grandfather a harmonica player. Robinson played classical violin from the age of nine. Besides Piedmont string band music, he also is interested in Revolutionary War music, and fife and drum tradition of African Americans in the Deep South.

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Nonesuch Records Signs the Carolina Chocolate Drops

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on April 15, 2009 - 10:35am
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009 - 15:00
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Nonesuch Records has signed North Carolina–based trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a young string band in the centuries-old Piedmont banjo and fiddle musical tradition. The group’s members—Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson—all trade duties as singers and swap instruments, too. The band, which has toured continuously since its formation in 2005, has several US concert dates this spring before taking a summer sabbatical, during which Giddens is expecting her first child. They will resume touring in the fall; their label debut is scheduled for early 2010.

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Nonesuch Records is proud to announce the signing of North Carolina–based trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a young string band in the centuries-old Piedmont banjo and fiddle musical tradition. The group’s members—Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson—all trade duties as singers and swap instruments, too. The band, which has toured continuously since its formation in 2005, has several US concert dates this spring before taking a summer sabbatical, during which Giddens is expecting her first child. For upcoming tour dates, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour. They will resume touring in the fall; their label debut is scheduled for early 2010.

Old-time Southern string music is often associated with Caucasian musicians from Appalachia, not African-Americans from the North Carolina Piedmont. But as Giddens pointed out in a recent NPR interview, “It seems that two things get left out of the history books. One, that there was string band music in the Piedmont, period. And that ... black folk was such a huge part of string tradition.” Carolina Chocolate Drops seek to not only correct this misunderstanding, but to keep the old-time string music tradition alive.

The group was formed after Flemons, Giddens, and Robinson met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC. They have learned that tradition under the tutelage of Joe Thompson—who at age 90 is believed to be the last living performer from the Piedmont string band heyday. Their repertoire is centered around the traditional music of the early twentieth century but also includes original material as well as a show-stopping cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2001 single “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”

The members of Carolina Chocolate Drops come from diverse musical backgrounds. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Dom Flemons has immersed himself in music of the past, with a prodigious record collection and an immense knowledge of the different playing styles of the blues, country, and string band traditions. His influences include Ma Rainey, the Beatles, and the Band. As a part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons uses his harmonicas for additional melody, and his jug and guitar root the band’s rhythm.

Rhiannon Giddens, a Piedmont native, grew up with the sounds of bluegrass from one side of her family and classic blues and jazz records on the other. After graduating the Oberlin Conservatory, she fell into contra dancing and became inspired by the Roundpeak–style old time bands she heard at the dances. She worked extra jobs to buy her first banjo and fiddle, and hasn’t looked back since. Giddens’ style is heavily influenced by the playing of Joe and Odell Thompson. She also calls contra and social dances, and is working on playing and calling simultaneously.

Justin Robinson is the group’s main fiddler and also plays banjo. He grew up in a house full of musicians—his mother is a classically trained opera singer and cellist, his sister a classical pianist, and his grandfather a harmonica player. Robinson played classical violin from the age of nine. Besides Piedmont string band music, he also is interested in Revolutionary War music, and fife and drum tradition of African Americans in the Deep South.

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