The Carolina Chocolate Drop's Nonesuch Records debut, Genuine Negro Jig, is an album with a very familiar, comfortable feeling.
For those that have followed the Chocolate Drops online or through concert venues, the track list on their latest is no surprise. Live performances of “Hit 'Em Up Style” and “Cornbread and Butterbeans” at WDVX's Blue Plate Special have nearly reached viral status on the internet. Of course, those just discovering the band will find the mix of roots, blues, R&B, and folk to be surprising at first, but ultimately satisfying. The albums zooms through the first five tracks and then settles in for a slower, but more daring second half.
The only completely original track – not coming until nine tracks in – is “Kissin' and Cussin,'” a dark, dissonant twist that's unlike anything else on the album, written by the group's Justin Robinson. The rest of the tracks are traditional tunes, covers, or arrangements. The instrumental tracks “Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig)” and “Peace Behind the Bridge” highlight some of the incredible string playing at work. “Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine” and “Hit 'Em Up Style” are the types of tracks folks will be sure to get up dance to (although the crowds for each song may be much different). Tom Waits covers are usually hit or miss and the only track that falls flat is the cover of “Trampled Rose.”
Genuine Negro Jig is engaging through out. This old style of music is rooted deep within people, particularly those who live in or are from North Carolina, and I've found that it has had an instant connection with many of the folks I've played it for. The Carolina Chocolate Drops continue to be one of the most interesting roots music groups around and are going to create a lot of new fans with this album.
Genuine Negro Jig is out on February 16. The next time the Chocolate Drops will be in the Triangle is on April 1 at the Cat's Cradle. Tickets are $15.