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Author Topic: Carolina Chocolate Drops  (Read 6670 times)

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mississippijohnhurt1928

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Carolina Chocolate Drops
« on: August 19, 2007, 07:23:37 PM »
I was very pleased to find that The Carolina Chocolate Drops (obviously named after The Tennessee Chocolate Drops) are keeping the black string band tradition alive.

I've heard some wonderful things about this group of musicians, what do you folks think of 'em?

http://carolinachocolatedrops.com/

Offline Flatd7

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2007, 07:51:21 AM »
The Chocolate Drops are great. Dom Flemons has been up to New York and we've had the pleasure to play with him. He's a real live wire. His solo album is very good. Three quarters of the band perform in the Jugband Doc. "Chasin' Gus' Ghost" as the Sankofa Strings. Don't know the reason for that. They will be headling the 3rd Annual Jugband Jubilee in Louisville, Kentucky this October.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2007, 09:57:50 AM »
Just curious, and I mean absolutely nothing disrespectful towards the CCDs, but I was wondering if anyone knows why they have sorta been singled out for national prominence when many other bands of equal or better talent seem to lanquish in regional obscurity?

I've seen many videos, from outdoor festival type performances and the Wood Songs show, and they are certainly competent, but nothing really makes me say wow, either technically or soulfully about their performances and their material seems standard enough in the Old Time (for lack of a better term, Frank) genre. I've seen the interview where the lovely young banjo player explains that they got together at some sort of banjo camp and apparently they have friends in high places in the banjo world. But still, I know there are many bands out there playing similar material with as much or more skill and heart.

Maybe what I'm really asking is "Who is their agent and how do I get hooked up?"-G- Or maybe I need to see them perform a whole show live to be really blown away?

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline Flatd7

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2007, 11:42:20 AM »
Waxwing - Did you get my email, or are you ignoring me?

You are little bit right on both fronts. They have been marketed very well. They are part of the Music Maker Relief Foundation which gives them some good exposure. They are young and energetic in a sector that is often populated with 50 somethings and all the grey hair and expanding middles that sometimes come with that. (Sorry, I've got my share of both). It is true, that how you look and act helps when it comes to finding an audience.

But, they also have an intangible 'it". I saw them recently at an outdoor show with Rdiers of The Storm. They killed. They were the openner and I belive new to much of the audience. Their set went long and the crowd still demanded an encore. They have a very unrehearsed element to them, which is very reminiscent of a more naive time in the music industry . . . .  the great folk scare of the 60's?

Dom Flemons is a groove master and a showman. He performs in a merry prankster, vaudvillian manner that could seem either derogatory, phoney or innapropriate by a lot of performers. But Dom is a genuine performer and does it with ribald dignity. He's kind of a modern day Uncle Dave Macon with the twirling banjo over his head and all. He can also spend ten minutes trying to get his banjo in tune or fishing through his box of bones, capo's, spoons and other gear while the audience scratch's their heads. He's a live wire.

Rhiannon is a fine clawhammer banjo player with a fabulous voice and will break into an accapella gospel number if Dom gets off track. She's kind of the glue that holds them together. Justin is a great fiddler and they all have a great groove. They are often joined by Sule Wilson on percussion.

I don't know which other bands you're talking about. But that's always the case. Some great artists need to hold down day jobs. Others just can't catch a break. And sometimes you just love an act, and nobody else gets it. The CCD's are out there touring, giving workshops and crossing the country pretty heavy. They're putting in the miles. So, they've worked hard, had some luck, good management and seem to be in the right place at the right time. But, they do draw and put on a great show. 

Offline waxwing

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2007, 12:11:54 PM »
Your email said, "Drop me a line if you're back east."-G-  That'll be when my folks house sells and I go out to help move them. I have no idea when that will be. The market seems pretty slow, but I hope it'll be soon. I don't know if I'll get up to NYC as I kinda want to get down to visit Neil Harpe and, hopefully, Eleanor Ellis, and I doubt I'll have time for two side trips.

Thanks for the info on the CCDs. I guess I'll have to catch a show. I was thinking of bands like the Second Fiddles.-G- You're right, it helps to be young.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2007, 12:51:35 PM »
And they're black. This makes them very interesting to people in all sorts of ways, not the least of which is the aspect of carrying on an old tradition from the black community. How many young black people are enthusiastic about old-time and string band music, let alone playing it? Most of what I've seen of them fits more into the old time and fiddle music genres (though I'm no expert on this stuff), but there's an entertaining (poor quality) YouTube video of them doing Salty Dog with some fun dancing by Rhiannon. Like Wax, I've not been completely bowled over, but there is still that extra something that holds my attention.

Anyway, I say good for them, while conceding Wax's point. I think that anything that gives authentic traditional music prominence can't be bad.

Wax: "friends in high places in the banjo world." ??!!  You mean like the manager at the local Denny's?

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2007, 01:46:16 PM »
And they're black. This makes them very interesting to people in all sorts of ways.


Exactly! That's what's so unique about 'em!

And not to bring too much racial discussion into this but I'd MUCH prefer to see a modern black string band than a white one.

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2007, 01:50:26 PM »
And they're black. This makes them very interesting to people in all sorts of ways.


Exactly! That's what's so unique about 'em!

And not to bring too much racial discussion into this but I'd MUCH prefer to see a modern black string band than a white one.

After all, black string bands and jug bands are my favorite genres of music!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2007, 04:19:48 PM »
Wax: "friends in high places in the banjo world." ??!!  You mean like the manager at the local Denny's?

I'm glad you got the intent in that, UB.

I agree, UB, more power to them and anyone who advances awareness of the old music, especially among the young.

And yes, I think it's an interesting, er, socio-phenomenon(?) in all the various aspects we might mention, not least of which is the youth aspect Jon is talking about. From what I've heard, they never lack for pace.-G- But I do think the fact that they may have a longer career than a 50 something is definitely a point with prospective promoters and record producers.

Hmm? Middle-aged, white and slowing down? Well, at least I work cheap...

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2007, 05:37:19 PM »
UB beat me to the punchline there. Good on the CCDs, this could be the beginning of the end of gangsta rap.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2007, 06:18:30 PM »
One might also speculate about how their success could bring more attention to other artists represented by Music Makers Foundation. Which also can only be a good thing. They had a CD review in Rolling Stone magazine, not exactly a youth rag anymore, but it's international exposure for old music. We can't rely on the good taste of a few kids like Calvin to carry the music forward. They might actually be good for the 50-somethings, both black and white, who've been playing the music for years in complete obscurity.

The youth factor is no doubt a big part of it as you note, and what I appreciate is that they're young people playing it straight and entertaining, no compromising hip-hop beats backing "Bile Them Cabbage Down" or punk interpretations of "John Henry" or goth versions of "Stack O' Lee" or nuthin'. They've supposedly got an 80-year-old mentor hailing from the black string band tradition.

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2007, 08:11:53 PM »
They had a CD review in Rolling Stone magazine.


Yeah, I saw that, and oddly enough that's what introduced me to them!

Offline Temple

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2007, 09:23:50 PM »
I saw the CCDs in Seattle in July and was blown away by their charisma.  I will see them live any chance I get, but am not interested in buying their cd.  Their presentation is everything.  I was very happy to hear their commitment to playing in the schools and giving kids a taste of their tradition.  Success does not seem to have gone to their heads.

Temple

Offline Flatd7

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2007, 06:57:08 AM »
So where do you all fall in regards to Old Crow Medicine Show? Another band that excels in youthful energy and presentation, but are much less traditional. There is a real sense of how Rock, Pop and Punk have influenced their take on old time music. I happen to like them and think they've written some fun material. However, the core of the old time community in my neighborhood bristles at the mention of them. They have bastardized a lot of material. The Chocolate Drops are far more traditional and authentic. But the OCMS are another band that have something and are getting far more exposure than most other roots, old time or bluegrass acts.

You know, I'm reading Escaping The Delta again, and it's important to remember that all the Pre War Blues artists from Ma Rainey to Blind Boy Fuller were all entertainers and probably used every trick in their bag to make them look and sound fresh, young and hip.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2007, 08:24:03 AM »
At PT I spoke briefly with Elijah about the book, which I have always had mixed feelings about, i.e., the second half, describing RJ's music, seems to be a labor of love and right on from my perspective, whereas the first half seems to be somewhat sensational and selective in the data used. Elijah said the second half was for real blues fans and the first was for the pop audience with limited awareness. I also asked him to define "professional" and he said "someone who makes most of his living from music". "Just over half their income?" I asked. "Yeah," he said. It wouldn't take many $5 house parties to make more than one could make in a year of sharecropping, eh? Let's bear in mind that many of the songs recorded had been around for decades. Before the advent of radio and records a popular song could have been around for decades, not the usual 4 weeks of today. I just think that to call the first recorded country blues players "slick professionals" and relate to them as you do the pop icons of the present is a huge mistake. Sure, Broonzy, Tampa Red, Washboard Sam and others of the Chicago studio scene, who cut hundreds of sides of what I think of as urban blues, were full on pros. King Solomon Hill, Geechie Wiley, Otto Virgil? For a short period they may have made some money playing music, but if they were slick professionals in the modern sense, they certainly would have worked out far better contracts with the record companies, who fleeced them like rank amatuers.

I've never heard the OCMS. Certainly more power to them if they are getting promoted for their music, but it doesn't sound like something I would listen to for very long. I guess I'm not such a big fan of smorgashboard music with too many influences. I'd rather keep the styles seperate.

Had a great time jamming (me on jug and washboard) with Elijah, night after night, in the Weenie House. That boy can play!

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline outfidel

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2007, 10:36:18 AM »
imho, 3 reasons the Carolina Chocolate Drops are getting so much attention is that they're 1) young, 2) black, and 3) very, very talented

take away any of those reasons, and CCD would be "just another" old-time group
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2007, 03:13:16 AM »
One of the nice things about living in the USA is I can pick up Dirty Linen for $5 instead of $19.95-type prices overseas. Current issue guess who's on the cover?


Offline Buzz

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2007, 09:26:49 PM »
HAve seen the OCMS twice, both times were underwhelming. Then they were on Prairie Home Companion several months ago, and they played a slower tempo tune, with banjo and sounded terrific.

Live, they opened for Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.  Some good material. High energy, too fast tempo too many times in a row for my taste, especially as openers for GW. I sort of got the feeling that , as separate musicians they have skill, that as a group were they to slow down and play the music, not try to keep up a frenzied pace with double-time "Cover of the Rolling Stone'"-type tunes, they might sound really, really good, or better than they did to me. But they never seem to slow down and play soulfully--except for that time on PHC.

I would see them again, if they open for someone else I want to hear. But they just don't do much for me. 

Buzz

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Offline CF

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #18 on: August 28, 2007, 07:22:28 AM »
I have been trying to watch all the CCDs stuff on youtube & have been liking much of it but the clip of them doing Ma Rainey's 'Black Eye Blues' on the Ghost of Gus Cannon trailer didn't do much for me . . . the singer couldn't capture Ma's 'lowdowness' & has  kind of a modern sounding voice which doesn't do jug music any justice . . . still, really great to see/hear people playing these tunes.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2007, 04:12:16 PM »
I have been trying to watch all the CCDs stuff on youtube & have been liking much of it but the clip of them doing Ma Rainey's 'Black Eye Blues' on the Ghost of Gus Cannon trailer didn't do much for me . . . the singer couldn't capture Ma's 'lowdowness' & has  kind of a modern sounding voice which doesn't do jug music any justice . . . still, really great to see/hear people playing these tunes.

Ick, I didn't like the singer's voice on that tune either.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2007, 02:26:54 PM by mississippijohnhurt1928 »

Offline git-fiddle

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2009, 01:31:37 PM »
...Hi guys I know this tread is a bit old but the new guy would like to weigh in here...being a black man myself who actually likes this music and recognizes and appreciates the tradition of the style of music being played, I must say the drops rock, technically I think they do have more then a bit of chops... and remember this music was played mostly for dancing, hence the speed of some of the tunes. They are also, from what I read, learning directly from Joe Thomson and probably playing it in the manner he did or suggests. As for media attention, I think it justified, yes because they are black and playing a form of music most young black people ( and probably even some old ones ) don't even know they had anything to do with culturally. I won't say it's bringing the music 'back to it's roots', both BLACK and WHITE people are heirs to the string band tradition in this country. As for Old Crow Medicine Show and Gillian Welch, hey I love them too.   
''...My road is rough and rocky on my way...'' Cryin' Sam Collins.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2009, 01:59:35 PM »
Hi git-fiddle - No problem reviving an old thread, ignore any warnings from the software.  :D

Re. the speed/tempo issue. I think that comment was about Old Crow Medicine Show (which Buzz referred to as OCMS), not the Chocolate Drops.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2009, 08:09:49 PM »
Check out New York City's own  Ebony Hillbilly's while you're at it.

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Offline git-fiddle

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2009, 07:38:45 AM »
NICE!!! Thanks Mr. Omuck! I think I have seen these guys in NYC...
''...My road is rough and rocky on my way...'' Cryin' Sam Collins.

Offline Slack

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2009, 08:11:44 AM »
ha, terrific! - and glad they finally showed the washboard player - that is quite a rig!

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2009, 09:27:28 AM »
And..is that not the greatest name for a band ever?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Slack

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #26 on: April 07, 2009, 09:32:00 AM »
And..is that not the greatest name for a band ever?

Sums it up nicely!

Offline git-fiddle

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2009, 09:10:21 AM »
LOL! I agree!!! A lot of my friends call me ''A black hillbilly''! On another note I picked up a Butch Cage album the other day at JR music in NYC...great stuff!! And the fiddle player sounds like he's playin' with a HACKsaw! Awesome!
''...My road is rough and rocky on my way...'' Cryin' Sam Collins.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #28 on: April 08, 2009, 09:20:17 AM »
LOL! I agree!!! A lot of my friends call me ''A black hillbilly''! On another note I picked up a Butch Cage album the other day at JR music in NYC...great stuff!! And the fiddle player sounds like he's playin' with a HACKsaw! Awesome!

I love that sound he has. Those guys are brutally wonderful.

Offline DanceGypsy

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2009, 02:53:52 PM »
Just curious, and I mean absolutely nothing disrespectful towards the CCDs, but I was wondering if anyone knows why they have sorta been singled out for national prominence when many other bands of equal or better talent seem to languish in regional obscurity?

Here's what I know:

Several years back the 'Drops attended the national Folk Alliance Conference and just blew up.  For those who don?t know, the FA annual conference brings together artists, presenters, labels, managers, lawyers, etc. and just basically gets everybody in the same place at the same time.  Artists submit recordings/bios, and a bunch are selected for official showcases.  The rest are free to privately showcase in rooms on the top three floors of the hotel that hosts the conference.  At any rate, there was a small buzz about the 'Drops at the beginning of the conference the year they showed up, and after their official showcase there were presenters and festival reps lined up all the way out the door to book them.  It was just one of those things, and they haven't been back since - haven't needed to, as they've had more work than they can handle ever since.

This history came to me from Louis Meyers, the then & current national director of the Folk Alliance organization.

My first exposure to the Carolina Chocolate Drops was at the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) held at Black Mountain, North Carolina just outside of Asheville.  I enjoyed their show, bought their CD and even had the dubious luxury of having Dom snatch my guitar away from me in a chow hall line to demonstrate the "proper" tempo of Deep River Blues.  One thing the 'Drops do that keep them in work is doing lots with kids.  They go to lots of schools, and they have a way of connecting with kids and bridging the gap between modern music and older traditions (as anyone who has seen Rhiannon doing the "soldier boy" dance can attest).  These guys are hard working, and Dom Flemmons is an impressive interpreter of CB and other old-time music.  I had them sign the head of the first banjo I built last time they came through Memphis, right next to Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn's signatures, and I believe they are all in good company with one another.

Regarding Old Crow Medicine Show, they were kind of discovered by Gillian Welch's music partner, Dave Rawlings, who went on to produce their first CD or two.  In my very own, personal opinion, I liked what they were doing right up until their newest release and lineup change.  They now play material they have written with electric guitars and whatnot, and it's just not my thing.  But the old stuff they do and the early stuff they wrote, now that was some good stuff.  Saw 'em once on Beale Street and they 'bout brought the house down.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #30 on: March 08, 2010, 04:32:47 PM »

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Carolina Chocolate Drops
« Reply #31 on: March 08, 2010, 05:27:53 PM »
We went to Rochester, MN on Saturday to hear the Chocolate Drops, and they were astoundingly good. (The last time we saw them, Rhiannon was about 8 mos preggers, and her daughter is now 9 months old). they have not been wasting their time -- lots of new material, much of it very good. Especially impressive is Dom's four-string banjo playing (I think it might have been a plectrum banjo rather than a tenor, although he played it with finger picks, and I couldn't make out from his left-hand work what the tuning was). And his Uncle Dave antics help a lot.

Too many of us, when we appear in public, spend the entire time on stage studying our shoes, so it was a marvelous experience to witness both respect for tradition and showmanship.

The sound was not very good, but that wasn't CCD's fault. I bought their new CD, "Authentic Negro Jig," and it's very well recorded -- the sound is excellent.

Lyle

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