WHEN: Wednesday, September 14
WHERE: Tipitina’s Uptown – 501 Napoleon Ave.
WHO: Carolina Chocolate Drops
HOW MUCH: $16
A few years back, when I was a resident Nashvillian, I took the required pilgrimage outside of town to Opryland to witness a taping of the world’s longest-running radio show. Countless subsequent trips to the original Grand Ole Opry (Ryman Auditorium) helped appease my conscience. (Like many locals here who call themselves live music fans without having ever seen a show at Preservation Hall, I shamefully delayed my trip to the hallowed halls for several years before finally going, and wasn’t really baptized as a legitimate local fan until that night.)
On the night of my first Grand Ole Opry visit in Nashville, one young band caught my attention above all other acts (a lineup that included Marty Stuart, The Whites and the late-great Porter Wagoner). The North Carolina-based trio called the Carolina Chocolate Drops, made up of Justin Robinson (fiddle, banjo, vocal), Rhiannon Giddens (banjo, fiddle, vocals) and Don Flemons (guitar, banjo, harmonica, jug, snare and vocal) were striking for Giddens’ amazingly alluring vocal presence. These musicians wielding old-timey, beat up instruments were breathing new life into folk music with such youthful vigor and learned passion.
You could tell they had done their homework.
Since that night four or five years ago, the trio has been making major waves nationally, booking gigs like a Bonnaroo ’10 and this year’s Newport Folk Festival, signing with Nonesuch Records (The Black Keys, Bjork & Wilco), all while helping to revive the old-time African-American string band music that used to be a tradition in black rural communities of the South. And if that ain’t enough, the band took home its first Grammy in 2010, winning Best Traditional Folk Album for the 2010 record Genuine Negro Jig.
In light of the recent Americana renaissance, which has seen previously obscure artists like The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons painted gold and platinum and smaller bands like The Low Anthem, Futurebirds and Punch Brothers experiencing a continuous rise in popularity, it’s no surprise that this band has been so well-received in recent years. While Americana is a broad brush to paint CCD with, this recent revival and expanded appreciation for the kind of treasured and timeless sound that Carolina Chocolate Drops wields has brought them to bigger stages like the Opry and, for our intents and purposes, Tipitina’s.
It’s a great sign for music (especially after watching the VMAs on Monday) and affirmation that maybe the kids are in fact all right.
It’s also rare to see this kind of music in the Crescent City, so don’t miss the chance on September 14th when Carolina Chocolate Drops swing through.