The second record from North Carolina-based string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops released on Nonesuch comes as a four-song EP. The record is a collaboration with the New York City–based Romanian gypsy punk band Luminescent Orchestrii; it was co-produced by that group’s sound engineer, Joseph “Bass” DeJarnette, with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Luminescent Orchestrii.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops formed after band members Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, in 2005; they have toured continuously since the band’s inception. All three trained in the Piedmont banjo and fiddle musical tradition under the tutelage of Joe Thompson. The members come from diverse musical backgrounds, sharing singing duties and swapping instruments throughout their sets. Flemons has immersed himself in the music of the past, with a prodigious record collection and an immense knowledge of the different playing styles of the blues, country, and string band traditions. In addition to her work with Joe Thompson, Giddens—a Piedmont native—studied opera at Oberlin Conservatory, performs with a Celtic band and is also an avid contra dancer and caller. Robinson, the group’s main fiddler, also plays banjo; he grew up in a house full of musicians—his mother is a classically trained opera singer and cellist, his sister a classical pianist and his grandfather a harmonica player.
The Luminescent Orchestrii’s music features Romanian gypsy melodies, punk frenzy, salty tangos, hard-rocking klezmer, haunting Balkan harmony, hip-hop beats, and Appalachian fiddle, all eaten and spit out by two violins, resophonic guitar, bullhorn harmonica, and bass. The band members are from different scenes in New York City, yet come together through their love of Balkan and Gypsy music. Sxip Shirey is an international circus composer, Sarah Alden is an old-time fiddle player, Rima Fand is an experimental theater composer, and Benjy Fox-Rosen is a free-jazz bassist. It is not uncommon to find Shirey playing with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Fand composing music for a Lorca puppet show, Fox-Rosen at a jazz gig, or Alden fiddling away at an all-night old-time session. Since 2002, when the band was formed, the Luminescent Orchestrii has toured the East Coast, England, Scotland, and Germany.