Carolina Chocolate Drops return to Sugar Grove July 9

Article Published: Jun. 16, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Carolina Chocolate Drops return to Sugar Grove July 9

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, seen here with Adam Matta of the Luminescent Orchestrii, will play at this summer's MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove.

Photo submitted

The Grammy Award-winning old-time string trio, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, have a special place in their hearts for the High Country.

After all, it was at the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University that the Drops performed for the very first time.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops will return to the High Country this summer to perform at the annual MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove July 8-9. The band will take the stage at the festival on Saturday, July 9.

New band members human beatboxer Adam Matta and multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins joined the band on Feb. 19, as founding member Justin Robinson departs to take up new challenges.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops' first Nonesuch release, the critically acclaimed "Genuine Negro Jig," won a Grammy Award for a Best Traditional Folk Album this year. It is the band's first Grammy.

On the album, produced by Joe Henry, the multi-instrumental group reclaims and revives a near-forgotten brand of banjo-driven string-band music from North Carolina's Piedmont region.

The Drops' new four-song EP, a collaboration with the New York City-based Romanian gypsy punk band Luminescent Orchestrii, was released in January.

It was co-produced by the Lumiis' sound engineer, Joseph "Bass" DeJarnette, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Luminescent Orchestrii. The self-titled EP is available at

The Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii project began when both bands, longtime admirers of each other's music, were performing at the Folk Alliance festival in Memphis, Tenn. Every day in Memphis, the Lumiis would set up in the hall and do a short set for the passersby.

One day, the Lumiis' Sxip Shirey noticed that the Drops' Rhiannon Giddens was watching and asked her to join them. What followed was "magic ... one of those rare festival moments that never happens again," as Shirey said.

The Chocolate Drops were soon invited to Brooklyn to join the Luminescent Orchestrii and their friend, Adam Matta, to record "Knockin'," from the Lumiis' record, "Too Hot to Sleep," and Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style," which was on the Drops' "Genuine Negro Jig." Next, the Lumiis and Matta went down to Winston-Salem to record a new version of the Sam Morgan jazz classic, "Short Dress Gal," and Lumii song "Escoutas (Diga Diga Diga)." These four songs comprise "Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii."

The Luminescent Orchestrii's music features Romanian gypsy melodies, punk frenzy, salty tangos, hard-rocking klezmer, haunting Balkan harmony, hip-hop beats and Appalachian fiddle, all eaten and spit out by two violins, resophonic guitar, bullhorn harmonica and bass.

The band members - Sxip Shirey, Sarah Alden, Rima Fand and Benjy Fox-Rosen - are from different scenes in New York City, yet come together through their love of Balkan and Gypsy music.

The Chocolate Drops' winter tour dates kicked off with a Feb. 2 engagement on Lincoln Center's prestigious American Songbook series and includes further shows around the country, into the summer.

In June, the band will perform in Atlantic City, N.J., as part of the first annual Dave Matthews Band Caravan, a series of four three-day, multi-artist festivals. The specific date is to be announced.
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