Carolina Chocolate Drops

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The three full-time members of the string band known as the Carolina Chocolate Drops (Dom Flemons on guitar, jug, and harmonica, Rhiannon Giddens on banjo and fiddle, and Justin Robinson on banjo and fiddle — Sule Greg Wilson sometimes sits in on percussion) met in 2005 at the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, drawn together by their mutual love of bluegrass, “jass,” jug music, and prehistoric country and rock. The acoustic musicians play a lively combination of standards and originals in these styles, sporting tongue-in-cheek, old-timey outfits and a spirited irreverence that barely disguises their technical facility. Their 2006 debut, Dona Got a Ramblin Mind, was released on the Music Maker label to wide acclaim, and they recorded three additional independent albums before their first widely distributed album, Genuine Negro Jig, appeared on Nonesuch in 2010. The group’s next release on the label, which appeared early in 2011, was a four-song EP recorded with the New York City-based Romanian Gypsy punk band the Luminescent Orchestrii. Robinson left the group that same year and multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins was added. The group augmented things further with New Orleans-based cellist Leyla McCalla and beat box specialist Adam Matta for 2012′s full-length Leaving Eden, which was produced by Buddy Miller. Later that year, they contributed the song “Daughter’s Lament” to the Hunger Games soundtrack. In 2013, the Drops announced that original member Dom Flemons would be leaving to pursue a solo career. Cellist Malcolm Parson and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett were introduced into the lineup and the band continued to tour, though frontwoman Giddens would deliver her own solo debut in early 2015. ~ Paula Carino