taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


The four-year journey of the Carolina Chocolate Drops ( saw them inherently begin as a kind of novelty — an old-time folk string band with a mind to reshape our consciousness of traditional folk music. The release of their third studio album Genuine Negro Jig leaves little doubt that there’s something special about the trio from Durham. Their ascension to major-label status aside, the group’s newest is proof that there’s still plenty of room for modernism in a genre largely dominated by preservationists. While the core of their catalog has primarily been traditional tunes, the reworkings present on Genuine Negro Jig are at the same time honest and innovative. Despite Rhiannon Giddens clear vocal superiority — see: her smoky jazz styling on “Why Don’t You Do Right” — no one in particular dominates the lead vocal duties, lending an even more communal sensation. Then there are the surprises, unless you don’t see a cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style” as out of the ordinary on an old-time record. It’s still a terrific cover, and almost certainly the first time a credit card was cast as an instrument of revenge in such a format. Less of a shock and somewhat less imaginative is a cover of Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose,” a rendition that screamed for Giddens’ operatic intonation. The only chink in the armor is the dirge-y, lone original “Kissin’ and Cussin’,” which momentarily steps into the realm of contemporary folk and seems less vibrant than the rest.



Just in case you didn’t have time to conceive any slightly cheesy, yet highly thoughtful love songs for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, Andy Freakin’ Mabe ( has got your back. The Winston- Salem songwriter and fashionista will release a collection of V-Day home cooking this Sunday at the Garage entitled Always With Wings. It’s 10 tracks of heartfelt, throwback pop written, recorded and produced entirely by the veteran rocker that’s just as innocent as it is infectious. Opener “In My Hands” is classic Winston-Salem pop, while the faint ska nuances of “You Will Be Mine Some Day” show off Mabe’s versatility. Sometimes the hooks can get a little overly-syrupy, like on “She Twirls For Me,” but those are just the pitfalls of pop and the school bus and pencil sharpener references make it completely worth it all. Mabe’s reliance on his trumpet playing to add musical texture on many of the tracks does tend to homogenize the album a tad, but that can easily be forgiven considering he did nearly the entire thing by himself. The only other musician found with is his former Clare Fader & the Vaudevillians cohort Mary Elkins on cello during “Parallel Lines,” a pensive and sweet ballad that seems to lose itself in its own metaphor.