By Emma Lightfoot
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Genuine Negro Jig

This article is over 12 years, 4 months old
The Carolina Chocolate Drops; Out now
Issue 346

This new album by the three-piece string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops is perhaps their best recorded work. It really takes full advantage of their vocal talent – especially opera-trained Rhiannon Giddens – and covers a much wider selection of genres than their previous releases.

The central thrust in all their music has been reclaiming the US folk music of the 1920s and 1930s for the black community, whose part in creating it has been largely glossed over in subsequent years. The US has a long history of left wing and anti-racist folk music, and musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan demonstrate this. Louisiana music – cajun, zydeco and creole – is in many ways an example of the best elements of US folk music. Young black and white musicians are at the forefront of it, and the roots of the tradition within black slave communities are well known.

They are clear that they haven’t experienced the same poverty as black Carolinians in the 1920s and that they are not trying to re-enact their music. However, they do use the traditional style to speak about modern forms of racism and oppression of their culture. This approach is brought together very well in their version of the R&B song “Hit ‘Em Up Style” by Blu Cantrell which, while being a brilliant piece of music, manages to be both relevant and true to their roots.

The inclusion of the traditional English folk song “Reynadine” shows that they are not merely performing a local form of music, but also identifying with a vibrant international folk revival.

Genuine Negro Jig is an excellent album which includes brilliant vocal, violin, guitar, banjo and even kazoo performances repeatedly showing off the versatility and skill of this trio. Their distinctive style makes sure that there is always a sense of continuity and that they make every track their own. They seem to be constantly developing, and their awareness of other genres means that this album is both accessible to and enjoyable for everyone.

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