Last Friday night we journeyed the couple of miles to the Flynn Center for a concert by the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Musically, the journey was a great deal further. (See and hear a video of them playing one of their signature tunes on You-Tube.)
We had seen them last a couple of years ago, when we joined maybe 30 people to see them in the Flynn Space, a black box that resides in the basement of the complex. They were electrifying then; they are more so now! (Here’s a bit of very recent video from CNN. It shows the Chocolate Drops in their current constellation!)
Since their last visit they have replaced a violinist and added Leyla McCalla, a superb cellist. That’s right, a cellist. She plays multiple styles of music and composes. She’s Haitian and now hails from New Orleans, also working on projects in New York City.The new violinist is Hubby Jenkins, a superb NYC mulch-instrumentalist.
They’ve also won an Emmy, and played Britain! Even BBC Radio 3 raved about them, then Showcased a video interview with music online!
The one thing we missed in this latest performance was the ethnomusical patter. Last time out we learned a great deal about the music and the life of the musicians and composers who created much of it. Life in the south was not easy for them back in the day.String band music spans many forms and remains vibrantly alive.
Oddly, much of the music was familiar to me. I even knew some of the words! I heard some of the songs performed by whit musicians as I was growing up in Appalachia. I learned some during the “folk revival” of the 60’s. I’ve picked up other bits and pieces elsewhere along the way.
The music is exceptional, and the Chocolate Drops play it with joy and intensity. See them if you are given the chance!