Archive for the Carolina Chocolate Drops Category

Friday Quick Hitters: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Luminescent Orchestrii, The Windbreakers

Posted in Carolina Chocolate Drops, Luminescent Orchestrii, The Windbreakers, Tim Lee 3 on February 4, 2011 by AmericanaPulse

Obviously, I listen to a lot more music than I’m able to share on this site.  A lot more.

The thing is… writing reviews takes time, and I have two jobs, a baby, a wife, and a dog that all require my attention.  It’s sometimes hard to find time to write lengthy reviews of all the stuff I want to feature.  ReviewShine Wednesday was one attempt to feature more music by writing shorter reviews of newer stuff.  Of course, there’s a lot of stuff I dig that isn’t featured on that site.

That’s what this space will hopefully become.  A place for me to briefly (two or three sentences at most) mention music that I’m listening to, but I know I’ll never have time to feature properly.  It will give you more stuff to listen to, and leave me feeling less guilty about all the stuff I’m neglecting/have neglected.

Carolina Chocolate Drops & Luminescent Orchestrii – Self-Titled EP

Nothing much here… Just your typical, “traditional string band paired with an Eastern European folk/klezmer band and a human beat box” record.  I’m sure we all have hundreds of these in our collection.

In all seriousness though… this EP is a lot of fun.

Carolina Chocolate Drops & Luminescent Orchestrii: Knockin’ (Buy Album)

The Windbreakers – Time Machine (1982 – 2002)

This is a “best of” collection from Tim Lee‘s former band and is full of jangly goodness.  Lee and  Bobby Sutliff were the driving forces behind this band and counted themselves as friends and contemporaries of groups like R.E.M. and Let’s Active.  This collection from 2003 is more than strong.

The Windbreakers: Changeless (Buy Album)

Best of 2010: 21-19

Posted in Carolina Chocolate Drops, Hayshaker, She and Him, Top 21 of 2010 on December 16, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

As I mentioned over the weekend, it is time to kick off the list of my favorite albums of 2010.  It’s kind of weird because it doesn’t really feel like it’s been a year since the last list. That’s probably because this year has been nothing more than one big blur.

2010 will forever be known to me as the year music took a back seat to some other things in my life. It’s the year my daughter was born and the year my priorities shifted accordingly. I wasn’t able to focus on music and writing as much as I wanted to at times, and I feel as though a few albums probably got lost in the shuffle. I know there are certainly a few albums I would have liked to spend more time with.

The posts that will follow in the next couple of weeks represent the music that didn’t get lost… my 21 favorite albums of 2010. Not the best necessarily, or the most innovative, or the critical darlings… just my personal favorites. From old favorites to new discoveries, from legends to unknowns, from string bands to Band(s) of Joy… they are the albums I keep coming back to and listening to over and over again.

So… Here we go.

#21 – Genuine Negro Jig by Carolina Chocolate Drops

The origins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops date back to 2005 when three members of a Yahoo chat group called “Black Banjo: Then and Now” met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC.  Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson found themselves to be three kindred musical spirits and they began playing together under the tutelage of old time fiddler Joe Thompson.  The three would meet at Thompson’s house every Thursday night to learn his craft and his songs.  They formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops to reintroduce the 90-year-old Thompson and his music to the world.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops released Genuine Negro Jig, their second proper studio album, in February and with it continued to package their traditional sound for modern audiences.  Robinson says the band sees tradition as a guide rather than a jailer, and on the record the band follows their guide to some fairly amazing places.  Highlights include the controversial Americana radio hit “Hit ‘Em Up Style,” the infectious instrumental “Snowden’s Jig (Genuine Negro Jig),” (read about that one here) and the traditional favorites “Cornbread and Butterbeans” and “Trouble in Your Mind.”  I’m also extremely drawn to the original tune “Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine.”

Carolina Chocolate Drops: Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine (Buy Album)

#20 – Volume Two by She & Him

She is actress Zooey Deschanel.  Him is musician M. Ward.  She & Him is a sum greater than the whole of its parts… a serendipitous collaboration that started on the movie set of The Go Getter where Deschanel was the star and Ward was the music director.  They recorded a song for the movie’s soundtrack and continued working together to produce 2008’s Volume One, one of my favorite albums of that year.

Maybe it’s because I’m now familiar with their sound, so there’s no way Volume Two could have ever sounded as fresh as Volume One, but this album never seems to reach the heights of that initial release.  That’s OK though, because this album is much more consistent than it’s predecessor and is absent some of that effort’s missteps.  Deschanel’s sugary sweet lyrics (she wrote eleven of the album’s 13 songs) are tempered perfectly by Ward’s grounded arrangements and production.  His presence keeps things from ever becoming too saccharine, as evidenced by his subtle guitar fills and powerful outro in the album’s lead single “In the Sun.”

She & Him: In the Sun (Buy Album)

#19 – Tin Roof Snare by Hayshaker

Hayshaker is a band from Waycross, GA (the childhood home of one Gram Parsons) that came out of left field to produce one my most unexpected favorites of 2010.  The band is led by the husband and wife duo of CC and Laurie Rider  along with T.W. Lott on lead guitar, Matt Starling on bass, and Josh Sharpe on pedal steel.  They’ve been making music together since 2001 and this stellar EP is their second proper release.  This is one of those albums that I discovered through the ReviewShine website, proving why that is such a great service

The first thing that jumps out when listening to this album is just how perfect CC and Laurie Rider sound singing together.  Whether building an intricate harmony, sharing a lead vocal, or delivering a playful back and forth, the two just seem to know each other’s voice.  You know it’s carefully plotted, but it just sounds so intuitive.  When their voices combine with the southern twang meets power pop hooks of their music, you come away with something truly special.

Hayshaker: The Dilemma (Buy Album)

2010 Americana Music Awards Nominees: Duo/Group of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Band of Heathens, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Avett Brothers on August 30, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s almost that time again. The annual Americana Music Honors & Awards are set to take place September 9th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville as part of the 2010 Americana Music Association Conference. As I do every year, I plan on spending the next couple of weeks reviewing the nominees for each award and attempting to handicap the competition.

We’ll start with the nominees for Duo/Group of the Year.

I was largely unfamiliar with the Avett Brothers when I saw them perform for the first time at the 2004 AMA Conference. I was completely entranced by their energetic spirit and punk/folk aesthetic. I became a fan on the spot. Since then, The Avetts have continued to tour relentlessly while seemingly picking up fans at every stop along the way.

In fact, for their latest album, 2009’s I and Love and You, The Avetts graduated from indie label Ramseur Records to record for major label Columbia under producer Rick Rubin. With the move, the band also expanded its sound to include piano and more lush arrangements. Being part of the Columbia stable also allowed them to take their music to a much larger audience. By gaining exposure for themselves… they have brought exposure to Americana music as a whole.
Avett Brothers: January Wedding (Buy Album)

Like The Avett Brothers, our second nominee also has roots in acoustic music. Unlike The Avetts, however, The Carolina Chocolate Drops seem much more content to stay closer to the traditional side of things. The Chocolate Drops pride themselves on keeping alive the traditions of the African American string bands that were prevalent in the 19th century, but are mostly extinct today. Their standard repertoire of instruments includes fiddle, banjo, jug, kazoo, and a wide variety of percussive elements.

Their calling card is the fact that they do traditional very, very well. Go to one of their shows and you’ll see what I mean. The trio look and sound the part of the true revivalist act complete with an energy and aura from another era. It’s odd then that the song from their 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig that has brought them the most attention/controversy is a cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2001 R&B anthem “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” For every request I received for the song at WDVX (and there were many), I would also get an angry email asking why the station was now starting to play hip-hop music.
Carolina Chocolate Drops: Hit ‘Em Up Style (Buy Album)

This year marks the second AMA nomination for Austin’s Band of Heathens. They were tabbed last year in the Best New Artist category that was ultimately won by Justin Townes Earle. This year, they’ve graduated to the Duo/Group category on the strength of their stellar sophomore effort One Foot in the Ether. You may remember it as my #2 album of 2009. It also hit number one on the Americana Airplay Chart… making them the first independent band to earn that distinction with each of their first two albums.

The Heathens strength is their songwriting. They boast three top flight Texas song scribes in Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi, and Gordy Quist, and each share songwriting and vocal duties equally. Even though the three started out as solo artists who just happened to play the same songwriter’s showcase, they have forged themselves into a fine band that seems to have a solid future.
Band of Heathens: What’s This World (Buy Album)
Bonus: The band has new free download available on their website.

The final nominee is a familiar face, even if The Dave Rawlings Machine has only really existed for a year or so. Rawlings is the long-time side man and musical partner of Gillian Welch and is one of the most respected musicians in all of Americana music. He was always been happy to stand in the shadows in the past, but stepped into the limelight with the 2009 release A Friend of a Friend… the first album to bear his name.

Of course, Rawlings isn’t alone in the Machine. Some of his friends who came along for the ride include Welch, Benmont Tench, and several members of The Old Crow Medicine Show. It’s really more of a super-group than anything else. Despite the star power he surrounds himself with, it’s Rawlings that shines through. His vocals and virtuoso guitar playing are front and center throughout, and he reminds us of his songwriting chops on the covers-that-really-aren’t-covers “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” and “I Hear Them All.” Both songs are Rawlings co-writes even though they originally appeared on albums by Ryan Adams and The Old Crow Medicine Show respectively. The album was good enough to almost make people forget that Gillian Welch hasn’t released an album of her own since 2003.
It also bears mentioning that The Dave Rawlings Machine headlined last year’s biggest Americana concert event… The Big Surprise Tour.
Dave Rawlings Machine: Sweet Tooth (Buy Album)
Four great acts… four worthy champions. The Avetts and the Chocolate Drops both helped expand the Americana fanbase, The Heathens did things no indie artist has ever done, and The Machine was… well… a well-oiled machine.
My Vote (If I Had One): Dave Rawlings Machine
My Prediction: Dave Rawlings Machine

Random Weekend Post: WDVX Blue Plate Special

Posted in Blue Plate Special, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jay Clark, Mike Farris on November 7, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Here are a few videos of performances at the WDVX Blue Plate Special. This is a live concert series that takes place every day at noon in down town Knoxville. Every day, people gather downtown to socialize, have lunch, and watch some live music. Did I mention that the shows are free to attend?

We’re in the middle of our Fall Fund Drive at WDVX. We are a listener supported radio station, and we rely heavily on listener donations to stay on the air. By making your tax deductible donation to WDVX you support programs like the Blue Plate Special and 24-7-365 programming of bluegrass, classic country, blues, folk, alt-country, and Americana music. You also help make sure that I have a job.

Sorry for the sales pitch… please enjoy some music from Mike Farris, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and local favorite Jay Clark.

Jay’s performance took place on Halloween last year if you’re wondering. He doesn’t always dress like Elvis. He’s also joined onstage by a couple of other Knoxville favorites… Cruz Contreras of the Black Lillies on the Mandolin and Wade Hill on the banjo.

Random Weekend Post: Carolina Chocolate Drops

Posted in Carolina Chocolate Drops on October 10, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I really hope some of you tuned in to the Blue Plate Special yesterday to hear Jill Andrews and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Jill’s new songs and band sounded amazing, and the Chocolate Drops had the crowd worked into quite a frenzy.

Here’s a video from the last time the Chocolate Drops appeared on the BPS. They’ll be back in town Sunday night for a performance at the Bijou Theatre.