Last week I featured some traditional Scottish music. Old-time music or old-time string band music is a form of roots music. In contrast with its cousin bluegrass, old-time is deeply concerned with preserving, reviving, and building on the traditional music brought to America from Scotland, England, and Africa.
I’ve always strongly preferred old-time string bands over a bluegrass act. I say always, but I’ve only known the term “old-time” for about a decade. Before that, I just knew it as the music I grew up hearing at events around my small, southern Appalachian town, played by an old man with a fiddle or a mandolin. That, though, was music that was literally dying with the old men who played it. Early in the group’s history, the Carolina Chocolate Drops spent much of their time to Mebane, North Carolina to learn from a 90-year-old African-American fiddler named Joe Thompson. They weren’t just learning to make music, they were engaging in cultural anthropology and historical preservation.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops sadly now appear to be defunct. I am very glad I got to see them play in Charlotte, albeit not with the original lineup. Rhiannon Giddens has moved on to a solo career. An amazing solo career, but one that owes more to Adele than to traditional music.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops covered traditional songs like Cornbread and Butterbeans.
They put an old-time gloss on songs from other genres, like their cover of R&B song Hit ‘Em Up Style (you may remember Blu Cantrell’s original version).
Snowden’s Jig, better known as Genuine Negro Jib, is another traditional song, one with an interesting history. Some people think that Dan Emmett learned Dixie from the Snowdens, a family of African-American string musicians from Ohio.
But we will end, though, where we started. The Carolina Chocolate Drops have mined most heavily the African strain of traditional American music, but the Scottish, English, and African are inextricably intertwined in traditional American music, in the way of music and of all culture. Giddens serious study of Gaelic shows in this medley.
Cornbread and Butterbeans, Hit ‘Em Up Style, and Snowden’s Jig are all off the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album Genuine Negro Jig.
Music Monday is the brainchild of Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek.
Follow Hillbilly Highways on Facebook.