Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig

January 01, 1970

(Nonesuch)

 

www.nonesuch.com

 

A rollicking polemic, The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Genuine Negro Jig does a defiant reel
around simplistic notions of “black” and “white” music.
This North Carolina
trio revisits the sort of material African-American string- and jug-bands
played in the early 20th century, rooted in Celtic folk but performed with
plenty of swing and soul.

 

Produced by singer-songwriter Joe Henry, the album is heavy
on traditional tunes, but also includes originals and a few covers. Among the
latter is a version of Blu Cantrell’s nu-soul hit, “Hit ‘Em Up
Style,” whose tale of vengeance at the shopping mall contrasts the band’s
Depression-era financial laments. The song doesn’t quite work, but i song
provides an amusing companion piece to “Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like
Mine,” a vintage ode to a girlfriend who “lets me spend her
money.”

 

The group’s female singer, Rhiannon Giddens, also plays in a
Celtic-folk band, which explains her straightforward rendition of
“Reynadine,” a ditty associated with the likes of Fairport
Convention. Giddens’ take couldn’t sound more British, but then
“Rhiannon” is a Welsh name. Elsewhere, she uses a throatier style,
whether singing the blues (“Why Don’t You Do Right?”) or adding
playful asides to Dom Flemons’ celebration of “Cornbread and
Butterbeans.” Playing banjos and fiddles and singing about coon dogs and
cornbread, the Drops exuberantly remind listeners that African-American music
was rustic before it got typed as “urban.”

 

Standout Tracks: “Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine,” “Cornbread and
Butterbeans” MARK JENKINS

 

 

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