Newsweek and MSNBC.com have posted an online feature on The Carolina Chocolate Drops, the black string band making waves at festivals all over the US this summer. Their sound is a mix of jug band and old time music, but all heavily influenced by the contributions that US black and African folk artists made to Appalachian musical culture.
"People ask us, ‚ÄòAre y’all from the mountains?’," says fiddler Justin Robinson, a North Carolina native. "What they’re really asking is, ‚ÄòWhy the hell are you playing this?'” His answer: “It’s a reclamation." Robinson, fellow Carolinian Rhiannon Giddens and Arizona-born multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons met two years ago at the annual Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, N.C. Under the tutelage of fiddler Joe Thompson, one of the last surviving practitioners of the black fiddle style that once provided the soundtrack to North Carolina’s hilly Piedmont region, the Carolina Chocolate Drops learned their roots and honed their chops. Last month they released their first album, an infectious hoedown of a record called "Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind." Now they’re one of the hottest tickets on the old-time and folk-music festival circuit. "In the black community most of the time they’re shocked we’re doing this," says Flemons. "A lot of black people like country music and old-time music, but they can’t relate because the people playing it don’t look like them."
You can hear audio samples from their CD on The Carolina Chocolate Drops MySpace page.