The Carolina Chocolate Drops


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Heritage isn't exactly a proper album; it's more of a compilation of various songs, both in studio and live from concerts, from the well from which the Carolina Chocolate Drops dip to showcase their love for and homage to early American roots music. They are well-educated across the board on styles of music long forgotten by many, and so, in that right, there's a certain charm to the listening experience, almost as if the music is spinning on a Victorola. That knowledge carries over into the liner notes, where group member Dom Flemons gives a brief description of the history of each song on the disc. It's a nice touch that allows the listening audience to get further acquainted with the history of these songs, given that many of them are at least 75 years old. Musically, the styles run the gamut, including an a cappella Rhiannon Giddens in "Po' Lazarus" that sounds like a Baptist revival in its presentation before you realize it's the dirge of an escaped convict. Originally made popular by Vera Hall, who was given a reintroduction to pop culture in 1999 with Moby's "Trouble so Hard," Giddens' operatically trained voice is up to the task with her quivering vibrato.

Elsewhere, "Don't Get Trouble in Your Mind" is one of the most fun songs in the Carolina Chocolate Drops' canon. This version is from a festival in St. Louis circa 2006 and translates live as well as it does in the studio version on a later release (Genuine Negro Jig) in their catalog. "Jack Of Diamonds," with its knee-slap percussion, and "Short Life of Trouble" are two waltzes that bridge one side of the album to the other. Given their expertise on early American music, it's fitting that the embedded bonus video interview is filmed in what looks to be a library. They're true students of the game, and sew another patch into the woven tapestry of music. Heritage delves into the cultures of bluegrass and African American string bands with results that mostly that this type of music is still alive due because of its emphasis on storytelling and keen musicianship. The Carolina Chocolate Drops have these in spades, and despite the fact that nearly all the material is not original, they breathe life into the recordings, proving they're a band to be reckoned with in roots music.

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