It’s Friday, so you know what that means: banjo time!
So far (with one exception, which was a banjo duet), I’ve been featuring solo performances on Banjo Friday, but today we’re going to feature a three-person combo, & a great one at that—the Carolina Chocolate Drops! The banjoist on this song is the phenomenally talented Rhiannon Giddens.
Of course, before going any further, I should note that the Carolina Chocolate Drops line-up featured in this video is not the current line-up. Justin Robinson, who fiddles & sings here, is no longer with the band, & has been replaced by multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins & “the human beatbox,” Adam Matta. I’ve recently been watching some videos on YouTube that feature the new line-up, & I’m happy to say, they sound just great! Jenkins is a huge talent, & Matta brings a full-time percussionist that the Chocolate Drops haven’t had since the Sankofa Strings days when Sule Greg Wilson was a band member.
I don’t know if Georgie Buck is still in the band’s repertoire following the personnel shift, but they did record versions on both their ’06 Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind & their ’10 breakout album, Genuine Negro Jig. The latter take was live, with Rhiannon Giddens taking the vocal on the “don’t let your woman have her way” verse—& nailing it of course! Actually, I just found out (too late!) that the Carolina Chocolate Drops performed here in Portland after I arrived. Wait till next time; after seeing a great show with the Justin Robinson trio line-up in Chico, California last fall, I’m looking forward to hearing the new quartet Chocolate Drops.
“Georgie Buck” is an old African-American banjo tune, & the Carolina Chocolate Drops picked it up from their mentor, 90-year-old fiddler Joe Thompson, who in significant ways passed the torch of the African American string band tradition to them. In fact, the Carolina Chocolate Drops backed Joe Thompson on this song on the 09 album, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Joe Thompson.
The song is usually played in G as a “one chord” song (tho some versions change chords at times to the relative minor chord, E minor.) It’s been covered by a number of musicians, from Doc Watson to Elizabeth Cotten, & from Taj Mahal to Flatt & Scruggs. The Carolina Chocolate Drops conflate the lyrics with those of a related song, “Black Annie.”