Carolina Chocolate Drops w/ Pat "Mother Blues" Coen
April 16, 2010
The Deal: Reviving black traditional music gets packed venue up and moving for duration of trio's set.
The Good: Having missed the first opener in talented singer/songwriter Ian Thomas, my night started out with a short set by Pat "Mother Blues" Coen. Coen, a transplant from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, brings the soul and feeling of that city's traditional blues style into the Queen City. Her storytelling style brings humor and feeling through her powerful vocals.
I had never seen the Carolina Chocolate Drops before, but was immediately drawn in by the band's energy and talent. Each band member has an expansive wealth of talent on a variety of instruments. Dom Flemons played dobro, banjo, jug and "bones" as he clicked and clacked his way through a few songs.
Rhiannon Giddens spent most of the evening playing banjo, but also found time for the fiddle and a kazoo. Her vocals shined on an a capella Gaelic song that slowly sped up and showed her dynamic range.
Justin Robinson spent most of the night playing fiddle and rounded out the band's sound. A short story or two was told, but for the most part, the band was focused on the music and deciding which songs fit best with the mood of the crowd.
"Memphis Shakedown" and "Corn Bread & Butter Beans" drew enthusiastic crowd responses. Flemons hinted that he wasn't as active as some people may be used to seeing, but noted that he had an appendectomy one week earlier and was still trying to take it easy.
The show hit its climax with an outstanding cover of "Hit 'Em Up Style" that even got Giddens out of her seat to ensure more power in her vocals. The band returned for one encore song before bidding farewell after nearly 90 minutes.
The Bad: Nothing to complain about. People of all ages appeared to love every minute of the band's music.
The Verdict: Definitely worth checking out for the talent factor as well as the historical significance of the music.