High Country Association of REALTORS News

Music Seen: The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Back in 2005, Appalachian State held the Black Banjo Gathering, a meeting to celebrate African American banjo and old-time music. Three friends met there in person for the first time. They would later form the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an acoustic group dedicated to bluegrass, folk and blues music. They've since gained national acclaim. In 2010 their third CD, Genuine Negro Jig, won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. The band, since expanded to four, now travels the country playing everywhere from Wisconsin, to Colorado, to New York and Rhode Island. Their goal isn't just to entertain, but to educate.

Carolina Chocolate DropsThe band plays string band music in the tradition of black musicians from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It's a style most often associated with rural white musicians and the black musical tradition is underdocumented, to say the least.

"Our number one purpose is to entertain," says Rhiannon Giddens, who sings and plays banjo and fiddle. "Secondly, we hope to educate and broaden people's horizons and bring back old music.

"We don't like to get too much into it in our shows, where it overshadows the entertainment," Giddens says. "But it got to the point that people were always asking us after shows, 'So how did you get into this?' We might as well meet it head on."

The Boone area remains a special place for the band. Last year they played at the annual outdoor MusicFest in Sugar Grove, and had a grand time. They're also back in the lineup for this year's event, scheduled for July 8-9. They'll be joining the legendary Doc Watson, the Kruger Brothers, the Major Sevens, Shannon Whitworth, the Eli Snuggs Band and the Snyder Family Band, among many others.

Just last week, they performed in downtown Boone as part of a celebration of Doc Watson.