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Friday, July 23, 2010

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig: B+

Short of Manowar coming out with an album of Viking sea shanties, Carolina Chocolate Drops are about as retro a sound as you're bound to get. The trio play Reconstruction-era bluegrass; stand-up bass and all. And, though some may think that style would be campy or entertaining in novelty value, only, Genuine Negro Jig is a surprisingly varied listen. Although songs like "Cindy Gal" and "Cornbread and Butterbeans" can sound almost laughably dated, Carolina Chocolate Drops do a pretty good job, overall, of maintaining your interest despite their limited playing field.

All three Drops have their own distinct voices, so at times, Genuine Negro Jig can sound like an ensemble piece. At the center of this, no doubt, is Rhiannon Giddens, whose nimble violin playing makes the instrumentals colorful and whose voice can either sound deliciously vindictive, as on the Blu Cantrell cover, "Hit 'Em Up Style", or plaintively delicate ("Reynadine").

At times it can sound profound, but it is clear that, with Genuine Negro Jig, Carolina Chocolate Drops were just making to write a hootenanny of a record, albeit a low-key one. For that they have succeeded, as Genuine Negro Jig is the sound of a band that knows what they do well and acts upon it as such.


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