New Release (Nonesuch)
The Carolina Chocolate Drops are all but guaranteed to be the next big thing in the roots world: They’ve got charisma to match their chops, and they’ve laid claim to a realm of music — black stringband music from the pre-World War II era — that’s been nearly lost in the years since. After a lineup reshuffle, this seems designed as their breakthrough album — and with one reservation, it deserves to be. Lead singer Rhiannon Giddens is the obvious focal point; she can do both sultry blues and bawdy stomps without reminding you of anybody else. The band neither modernizes the music nor makes it sound too old-timey; they just capture the original spirit by letting the fiddles and banjos fly. Producer Buddy Miller provides a warm live sound; you can practically hear the furniture in the living room. That one reservation? In addition to touring cellist Leyla McCalla, they’ve added human beat-boxer Adam Matta to the lineup; he’s not too prominent, but the anachronism smacks of the gimmickry that the Chocolate Drops are usually smart enough to avoid.
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