Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ruthie Foster
Ordinarily, an album released in 2010 bearing the title Genuine Negro Jig might raise a couple of eyebrows, but the Carolina Chocolate Drops—who did that very thing back in February—are, well, chocolate. And genuine, for that matter.
Although the Durham, North Carolina-based Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson were all in their twenties when they formed the Drops in 2005, they ripened under the tutelage of mentor Joe Thompson, now 90 years old and believed to be the last surviving practitioner of the original acoustic Piedmont string-band style, which blends Appalachian folk, bluegrass—or what would eventually become bluegrass a decade or three later—and blues. (The duo of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and the Reverend Gary Davis, all deceased, are arguably the best-known Piedmont musicians.) But the Drops are far from an act of an earlier age encased in amber like the mosquito in Jurassic Park. They originally met in a very 21st-century fashion—an online message board, albeit one devoted to banjo enthusiasts—and, among the traditional tunes of Genuine ("Cornbread and Butterbeans," "Sandy Boy"), the trio folds in spitting-image originals ("Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine"), a wacky cover of Blu Cantrell's 2001 R&B/pop smash "Oops! (Hit 'Em Up Style)" and a version of Tom Waits's "Trampled Rose" that's easily as haunted and haunting as the one by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their Grammy-devouring Raising Sand.
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