Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
We can occasionally give the music we're listening to too much credit for the mood we're in or for what's become of the day, but most of the time, it can be argued, we don't give it enough credit. The Carolina Chocolate Drops did it to me today and they shall get all of the credit. It's been a stubborn ass springtime here in the Midwest and hearing from those out there on the West and East coasts, things haven't been much better. The tolerable weather has been intermittent and the unconscionably bastard weather has been overwhelming. The last few days got incredibly cruel on us again, after a week of 80-degree temperatures. Suddenly, we were getting drizzled upon and nighttime temperatures were down near the freezing mark - unforgiveable transgressions, all of them. But, this morning, we started listening to this Carolina Chocolate Drops session that we taped a few months back - when it actually was colder'n snot outdoors - and we were greeted with one of those days that seems to smile back at you. It even appears to wink at you, sharing a moment. It's back to being spring again after all of the false starts and nasty psychological torture that it put us through. We believe that the foursome from Durham, North Carolina - Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, Adam Matta and Hubby Jenkins - had a lot to do with it, even if they were as far away from here as they could be, doing whatever it was that they were doing today, not thinking about us or our ugly moods one bit.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops play music that makes a day feel as if it might melt your eyelashes off if you aren't careful, the sun so hot we'd freeze to death, that kind of thing. It seems to come from the hearts of four human beings who are impossibly revved up, firing off some spastic lightning from their fingertips, making the ebullient sounds of an old-time train heist on a classic western. It's that string and jug band sound -- hardly ever done by young groups these days - that helps this feeling along. It's hard to find the darkness or the sad times in these songs, though there's plenty of blues joining the notes together in the dance. Even these sad times - the ones in "Po' Black Sheep" where a woman's been cheating and everyone knows it, with the cuckold of a man singing, "Boy I wish my gal was mine" -- however, wind up being things that you can move to. They bust you out of your stupor and you're immediately more agile, only because you've got to keep up with your heart rate. It feels as if those sunken spirits have been given a reprieve and they're now allowed to toast the undercurrents and the blemishes as things that are long-gone or on their ways out. We feel good again, as if we could take another round or two of body shots, surviving on the adrenaline rush of getting up and cutting rugs. We're at a hoedown that was put together just for us, just to build us back up into people who could appreciate a clear blue, bright yellow day.