Carolina Chocolate Drops, Fox & the Bird

For a group that specializes in smile-inducing string-band music that organically forces the heart to dance along with the feet, it's natural that the Carolina Chocolate Drops would choose to face the issue of race by simply being truthful right from the start. Whether it's their chosen band name — a tribute to the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, an African-America roots act from the 1930s — or the title of their superb 2010 album, Genuine Negro Jig, this quartet from North Carolina owns their heritage as much as they revere it.

The way in which they possess their musical lineage is as inspiring as it is essential to the American roots music experience. In recent years, the term "Americana" has more or less blanketed myriad forms of folk music that aren't played on country radio. In that sense, to tag the Carolina Chocolate Drops as an Americana act usurps the very heart from what it is they provide.

Still: Want proof that this is a stringed, yet soulful powerhouse? Look no further than their popular remake of Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style." The way in which the R&B girl-power anthem is so easily turned into a front-porch boot-stomper is nothing short of unfiltered soul.


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