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For me music is much like art in that I don't know much about it, but I know what I like and when I came across the Carolina Chocolate Drops for the first time, I liked.  I liked a lot.  

What first caught my eye was the group's revival of southern music from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas which is very close to where I grew up.  Admittedly, banjos and the south generally conjure up images of white men, moonshine and Deliverance and not particularly African-Americans replicating 1920s and '30s southern style black music.  Then there was the beat-boxing, that one I had to research, but the jug playing, dancing, shouting, jazz, and fife and drum that instantly provokes foot tapping and swaying - that I knew quite well.

This how Wikipedia explains beatboxing:

Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, and the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments. Beatboxing today is connected with hip-hop culture, being one of "the elements", although it is not limited to hip-hop music.
Here is a fine example of beatboxing featuring Carolina Chocolate Drop, Rhiannon Giddens and Adam Matta who is known as the Human Beatbox:

When the Durham, NC based band formed in 2005 they wisely kept the the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based sound at their core, appreciating and embracing the authentic traditional sound. Their audience in the beginning was after all, from the foothills of North and South Carolina - the birthplace of the genre.  The Drops beautifully blended contemporary folk, roots and blues and soon won over their audiences.

Band member, Rhiannon Giddens is the only member from North Carolina, with Don Flemons and Hubby Jenkins from Arizona and New York respectively.  As one of the few remaining African-American string bands, this group has found a way to fuse the traditional with more progressive forms of music such as adding their beat-boxing.  All the members of the band sing and they share such instruments as  both a 4 string and a 5 sting banjo, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, snare drum, jug, bones. quillls, tambourine, mandolin, cello and kazoo.

Sooooo, here's one of my personal favorites... "No Man's Mama, originally sung in the 1920s by blues diva Ethel Waters. This song of a woman's joy on getting her divorce papers was quite radical for the times.


One for Otteray Scribe - Rhiannon Giddens performing an Acapella Gaelic medley at the Pickin' In the Pines Bluegrass Festival in Flagstaff, AZ, Sept 2008.

Another favorite: Cornbread and Butterbeans:
In 2013, they were nominated for a Blues Music Award for 'Acoustic Artist' and they have a song on The Hunger Games soundtrack called "Daughter's Lament."  The group's sole album, Leaving Eden released in 2012, features 2010′s Grammy Award–winning Genuine Negro Jig, which reached #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart and #2 on the Billboard Heatseekers and Folk Charts.

Their website, Carolina Chocolate Drops: A Modern Take on a Traditional Sound provides more information as well as tour dates.  

NPR Music has archived a number of concerts, interviews, reviews and other stories on this incredible group.


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