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Carolina Chocolate Drops

Leaving Eden – 2012 (Nonesuch)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Carolina Chocolate Drops

When Rhiannon Giddens urgently sings the autobiographical Country Girl, which rocks with a distinctly acoustic thump, it's a clear sign that Carolina Chocolate Drops is much more than just an old time music revival band. Granted, this act incorporates a lot of sounds you won't likely hear too often on contemporary radio, such as the hand clap backed gospel rhythm section supporting Read 'Em John.

But to flippantly suggest CCD is somehow lost in the past, would gravely underestimate the range of its art. Along with Giddens, Dom Flemons co-leads the trio, which also includes Hubby Jenkins, through the variety-packed "Leaving Eden," the group's third full-length. While Flemons builds up a good head of steam during the evangelical revival meeting that is Read 'Em John, Giddens provides the most vocal highlights on this Buddy Miller-produced album. For instance, Giddens conjures up beautiful memories of folk icon Joan Baez during the sadly gentle title track, which is lovingly complimented by mournful violin, and then gets truly saucy during Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man?

The instrumental Mahalla combines a banjo solo lead with a South African beat, for a unique sonic combination. All of these unexpectedly cobbled musical elements make a strong case that, although Carolina Chocolate Drops might have deeply ingrained traditional roots, it doesn't mean they can't also be highly adventurous. The group is leaving Eden, many times to parts unknown.