The Carolina Chocolate Drops – The Parish, TX

When the doors opened at The Parish for The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ show Friday night, the line went around the block. People packed into the room for a chance to see Rhiannon Giddens, Justin Robinson and Dom Flemons play some “oldies, blues, and a little country” on the last date of their “Deep South Tour” that brought them from Bonnaroo to Austin by way of Athens, Charleston, New Orleans and Dallas.

Taking the audience on an upbeat journey through the last century and a half of folk music, The Drops made a point to introduce each tune and share tidbits of trivia about the writer, where they had picked it up and how their version might differ from the original.

“We’re not going to have to ask twice have you participate—which is awesome,” Rhiannon commented as she suggested that the crowd join in on “Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind.”

“The appendix #1 to that statement, “Do anything you’d like within reason,” Dom added. “I know we’re getting a little bit further west and so anything can go when you say ‘anything goes’ but clap your hands, dance, stomp, do what you got to do—but make sure you do it with it. We’re asking you to be a part of our community.”

Tunes that they learned from mentor Joe Thompson, an 91-year-old fiddler, like “John Henry” and “Cindy Gal,” got a special mention as did “Genuine Negro Jig,” a song written by Thomas Snowden that also serves as the title track of their latest record.

With their fiddles, banjo, guitar, snare drum, jug and bones they rambled and waltzed through “Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine,” “Cornbread and Butterbeans,” “Jack of Diamonds” and Justin traded verses with Rhiannon on “Jackson.” Unfortunately the autoharp set on the stage spent the night untouched.

Later, playing to the Texas population, Dom sang a few bars of “Waitin’ For A Train” as a teaser before Jimmie Rodger’s yodel “My Little Lady.”

“We’ve been through the wringer in terms of demanding audiences,” Rhiannon explained before the dance instrumental “Sandy Boy.” “It’s a very had thing to do a show for K-12, good training.”

Also included in the set was Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style,” that they pulled from the radio about “200 years ago in pop terms.”

As Justin and Rhiannon took some time to tune their instruments before the encore, Dom held an abbreviated lesson on how to play the bones.

“It’s just easy motions with the wrists,” he explained the skill that appears simple and yet difficult—especially when paired with the foot-stomping and singing.

But that’s part of what makes The Carolina Chocolate Drops so gosh-darned-good—the way they make great music effortless and timeless.

Set List:
Peace Behind the Bridge
John Henry
Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind
Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine
Will Adams Breakdown
Jack of Diamonds
My Little Lady
Sandy Boy
Cornbread and Butterbeans
Genuine Negro Jig
Black Annie
Hit Em Up Style
Sourwood Mountain
Cindy Gal

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Photos by Nichole Wagner

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