(Photo by JULIE ROBERTS)
People commonly consider the realm of old-time and bluegrass to be mostly white genres.
Nevermind that in the old South, rural black and white families were neighbors and freely shared their music, with few racial lines. Nevermind that the banjo is a cousin to a couple of traditional African instruments.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops stand in stark contrast to the stereotypes -- three African American musicians playing great music on banjo, fiddle, guitar, snare drum, kazoo, jug and bones.
A Putnam County audience will get a first-hand taste of this unique concert experience when the Drops play DePauw's Green Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The concert is free and open to everyone.
The Drops are composed of banjo player-singer Rhiannon Giddens, multi-instrumentalist-singer Don Flemons and singer-fiddle player-human beatbox Justin Robinson.
The band bears the flag of music of the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, where the sound revolves around the melodic lead of the fiddle.
They do so by mixing traditional music and themes, like "Cornbread and Butterbeans," with modern music, such as Blu Cantrell's 2001 hit "Hit 'Em Up."
A catchy (if forgettable) song, "Hit 'Em Up" is reimagined wonderfully on "Genuine Negro Jig," the Drops' most recent release. It features the song's original melody, but played on fiddle and banjo.
The song also displays Giddens' beautiful voice, perhaps the Drops' most powerful instrument.
The band also displays its chops on instrumentals such as "Peace Behind the Bridge" and "Snowden's Jig (Genuine Negro Jig)."
In the end, this can only be described as outstanding American music. Local music fans should not pass on the chance to see an act as talented and unique as this.