Oh my gawd the Carolina Chocolate Drops! You know sometimes when you go see a band based on nothing more than a hunch, & then you turn out to be so right? I had torn out an article about these folks waay back when, buried it in a scary giant pile on my desk, then unearthed it just a couple weeks ago during major excavation of my desk. (You can actually see the desktop now! It’s blue.) Article in hand, I found the website & listened to a song, which I liked enough to then see where they were playing. Serendipity called; they were coming to Cafe Du Nord in just a few days.
So, there we were, with pumpkin soup & a big spinach salad, hard pear cider & no particular expectations. The opening duo was pleasant enough, obviously locals with friends in the audience. So far, so good. They finished playing & we finished our food. Then the Drops got on stage & gave us that sneaky stringband trick of a sweet, moderate-paced preamble before dramatically kicking it up to superhighspeed, large & in fucking charge, authoritative, sinus-clearing, hair-raising, fierce playing. Wow! The temperature of the place shot up about 10 degrees. I was instantly in love. & it didn’t stop. They got everthang: showpersonmanship, talent, brains, dedication, humor, analysis, energy, & looks & youth (oh yeah, I did say energy) to boot. If I wasn’t so thrilled just to be in the same room with them I’d go ahead & be jealous. The wacky Dom Flemons plays any & every instrument he feels like, including bones, jug & guitar, & just when you think he’s shown you everything he’s got, throws some throat-singing into the mix too. Rhiannon Giddens does everything too, including Charleston & clogging—barefoot! Justin Robinson may seem like “the quiet one” in comparison but is a mean player & singer himself & a fully worthy, equal member of the trio.
Everybody loved them. Toward the end of one song, someone in the audience moaned, “Don’t let it end!” When they were done with us we made them come back for two encores, then stampeded up to the CD table with fistfuls of cash, crying out, give us one of everything! They graciously signed their CDs for us & we went home with joyously rearranged brain cells. Do I need to say it? Go see them! They’re everything you never knew you wanted in an African American oldtime stringband. If you think you don’t like oldtime, well, they’ll make a convert outta you.