Live Review

SXSW 2010: Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Driskell, Austin

The kind of foot stomping hill billy shenanigans that’d normally send you running for the hills.

Carolina Chocolate Drops

are something of heroes to me. An all-black string band covering (and reinventing) the old vaudeville style of playing and presenting. Hailing from North Carolina, the group have in their relatively short career, managed to re-appropriate many of the tunes and sounds we have come to think of as white. As really, really white.

But embracing the substance of ones heritage rarely comes up with more than a book report, much less a live act that feels as if it’s stepped through a time machine. The Chocolate Drops open with the kind of foot stomping hill billy shenanigans that’d normally send you running for the hills, keeping a sharp eye out for creepy kids sporting banjos. Segueing quickly, the group showcase some of their own creations: long mournful ballads of love and loss, personal tunes done up in the traditional trappings of early American folk music.

Stepping outside afterward, back into the drunken mayhem of a city paralyzed by its own successes, the sincerity of what The Carolina Chocolate Drops are attempting to do feels all the more poignant, all the more important, and draws a sharp line down a road flecked with the emptiness of discarded beer cans and cigarette cases, daring the listener to call that kind of thing an honesty.

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