The shakeup after the Carolina Chocolate Drops won a Grammy for 2010's Genuine Negro Jig was not what you might have imagined. First, the band lost original member Justin Robinson to grad school (and his Mary Annettes; see page 37); then, they picked up old-time bluesman Hubby Jenkins as a full-time member and beatboxer Adam Matta as a contributor. Such shuffling might have been a radical detour, but it turned out to be a natural fit and creative boon. The energetic band has kept up a grueling tour schedule, wowing audiences with their roots music chops and pure showmanship. They're as likely to play a tune gleaned at the knee of Mebane's Joe Thompson as a cover of some R&B smash—like the overwhelming crowd favorite "Hit 'Em Up Style." For this night, New York gypsy punks and frequent Drops collaborator Luminescent Orchestrii join in on the fun, adding Balkan flare to this string band crew.
There's also a decent bet the Drops will be previewing cuts from their upcoming album, Leaving Eden, due at the end of the month on Nonesuch Records. Produced by Buddy Miller, the record will smartly combine original compositions, traditional tunes and covers alike. Given the Chocolate Drops' catch-all creativity, fueled by fiddles, kazoos, drums, jugs and jigs, along with a continually adventurous spirit, there's little telling where they'll go tonight—or any other evening, for that matter. —Ashley Melzer