2010 Grammy Award Winner: Best Traditional Folk Album
Nonesuch Records released the label debut of North Carolina–based string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops on February 16, 2010, and the vinyl version, which includes the album on 140-gram vinyl and CD, on July 13. The album has received a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album.
Produced by critically acclaimed recording artist and songwriter Joe Henry (Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke), Genuine Negro Jig features string band interpretations of Blu Cantrell’s beat-box driven R&B single “Hit ‘Em Up Style” and Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose,” as well as a pair of original compositions, alongside such traditional tracks as “Cornbread and Butterbeans” and “Trouble in Your Mind.” It is the band’s second record; their 2007 release, Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind, was praised by Paste for “bravely and expertly reclaiming the string band tradition for modern African-American culture,” while NPR’s Weekend Edition calls the band “the hottest thing to hit the old-time music community in decades.”
Customers ordering Genuine Negro Jig through the Nonesuch Store receive the album both on CD and as audiophile-quality, 320 kbps MP3s. In addition, with those MP3s will be a full seven Nonesuch Store-exclusive bonus tracks, all recorded before a live audience at Santa Monica's famed Village Recorder studio in November 2009.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops formed after band members Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, in 2005; they have toured continuously since the band’s inception. All three trained in the Piedmont banjo and fiddle musical tradition under the tutelage of Joe Thompson, who, at age 90, is believed to be the last living performer from the Piedmont string band heyday. While old-time Southern string music is often associated with Caucasian musicians from Appalachia, Giddens pointed out in a recent NPR interview that “it seems that two things get left out of the history books. One, that there was string band music in the Piedmont, period. (And that) black folk was such a huge part of string tradition.” The Carolina Chocolate Drops seek to not only correct this misunderstanding, but to keep the centuries-old string music tradition alive and developing.
The members of Carolina Chocolate Drops all come from diverse musical backgrounds, sharing singing duties and swapping instruments throughout their sets. Flemons has immersed himself in the music of the past, with a prodigious record collection and an immense knowledge of the different playing styles of the blues, country, and string band traditions. In addition to her work with Joe Thompson, Giddens—a Piedmont native—studied opera at Oberlin Conservatory, performs with a Celtic band and is also an avid contra dancer and caller. Robinson, the group’s main fiddler, also plays banjo; he grew up in a house full of musicians—his mother is a classically trained opera singer and cellist, his sister a classical pianist and his grandfather a harmonica player.