Just a few days ago I got to see the fabulous Carolina Chocolate Drops playing at the Oregon Zoo outdoor summer concert series. This is a trio that honors and performs in the African-American string band tradition. With their very presence they underscore the idea that before record companies started inventing “categories” in which to pigeonhole artists, country music encompassed a lot of different kinds of people bringing together a lot of different musical influences (something that A.P. Carter recognized when he collected songs all over the region in both black and white communities with bluesman Lesley Riddle).
Rhiannon Giddens, Don Flemons and Justin Robinson are young musicians who learned from some of the masters of the string band form and yet are putting their own special stamp on it. So at a typical gig, they might perform a rural classics like “Cornbread and Butterbeans” followed by a country version of the hip hop number, “Hit ‘Em Up Style,” capped by a performance of a Johnny Cash-June Carter staple, “Jackson.” It’s eclectic and yet oddly cohesive. And a real treat to experience as they’re accessible and dynamic stage performers.
We’ve been lucky enough to get them to agree to appear in The Winding Stream. I’ve proposed some possible songs for them to consider and they’re mulling ‘em over and I trust they’ll toss some ideas back my way. I think the process of picking the song will be a lot of fun. We hope to be able to film them sometime this fall. We’ll tell you when we do and post a clip from the session right here.
Meanwhile check out their website, buy their music and make a point to see them next time they’re in your area. www.carolinachocolatedrops.com