Carolina Chocolate Drops
Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind
North Carolina’s Piedmont region provides inspiration to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group of young, African American musicians who are trying to keep the nearly extinct, early 20th century string band traditions of the region alive. These fiddle and banjo tunes may sound simple and repetitive but they are deceptively intricate in their rhythms. And though the sound may be as old as the hills, it’s clear how much of it survives in the music we listen to today from blues to country to rock and roll.
Ranging in age from 25 to 30, the band began their musical journey by seeking the tutelage of Joe Thompson, who is believed to be the last black traditional string band player. Arizona native Dom Flemons contributes harmonica, guitar, banjo and jug to the band’s sound. North Carolina products Justin Robinson and Rhiannon Giddens both play the fiddle and Giddens handles some banjo duties as well. All three contribute vocals.
All those sawing fiddles and similar sounding tunes make a little of this go a long way. Still, it’s a noble goal to keep this music alive for future generations and to remember where our music traditions come from. And with the accomplished players of Carolina Chocolate Drops, the music appears to be in good hands.