Full Interview » Podcast: Carolina Chocolate Drops
Carolina Chocolate Drops are sweet – but they’re not something to eat. You have to take them in with your ears, your feet, your skin, and your mouth if you’re prone to singing or beatboxing along. They’re a band that’s three parts old-timey folk, one part R&B, and a whole lot of love.
Love is what drives tradition. In order to save something, you have to care about it. The Carolina Chocolate Drops evolved under the mentorship of North Carolina folk musician Joe Thompson, who passed at the age of 93 just last week on February 20. His love of music has inspired many musicians, but it’s The Chocolate Drops that turned his tunes into a Grammy Award-winning album, Genuine Negro Jig, in 2010.The band’s follow-up album, Leaving Eden, will be released tomorrow, February 28.
It was for the love of music that original Drops Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemmons, and Justin Robinson regularly jammed with Thompson at his Carolina home. The three met at the Black Banjo Gathering in 2005, the first musical gathering of its kind, and decided to form a band. But according to Flemmons during our interview back in July of 2011, it was playing and learning from Thompson that gave them their edge, and without Joe, he doesn’t think the Chocolate Drops would be what they are today.
After Justin Robinson left the band to pursue a degree in Forestry and music of his own, The Drops picked up multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins, who holds his own on two of the band’s staple instruments, bones and banjo. That’s right – bones – a pair of real bones or carved wooden sticks held between the fingers of one hand and clicked or slapped together percussively. The banjo was first an African-American instrument, derived from traditional African ones, before it was popularized by white folks into an American instrument.
As the only black string band on the music ‘scene’ the Carolina Chocolate Drops have done much to shed light on some of the real roots of American folk.
You can check out the Carolina Chocolate Drops website www.carolinachocolatedrops.com or at the their label, Nonesuch Records, www.nonesuch.com. Their new album, Leaving Eden, is out tomorrow, February 28th, on CD and will be available on vinyl March 20th.