The Carolina Chocolate Drops bring us a revival of a black string-band tradition that originated in the Piedmont region of the Carolinas in the nineteenth century. This tradition was a strong influence in popular music both in America and Britain in the early part of the last century but has now fallen into neglect.
Not one of the 12 tracks on this album is a miss. It gets off to a lively start with an ideal scene-setting instrumental, Peace Behind the Bridge, with fiddle, banjo and bones. The title track is actually renamed Snowden's Jig on the album, in honor of the Snowden family, from whom the tune was probably originally collected, back in the 1800s. It is another instrumental - syncopated, slow and haunting.
Reynadine is the track closest to the older British ballad tradition that forms an important part of this music's heritage. Fragmentary and mysterious, it may date back not much earlier than 1800, and exists in several versions. It is here sung a cappella by Rhiannon Giddens, and very beautiful it is, too. It showcases her wonderful voice better than any other track, and it's no surprise to learn that she was opera trained.
Hit 'em Up Style and Trampled Rose add contemporary influences into the mix, so that the collection comes across as a revived but continuing, living tradition.