On their 2009 album “Genuine Negro Jig,” string music group Carolina Chocolate Drops cover Blue Cantrell’s 2001 hit pop R&B song “Hit ’Em Up Style,” backed by a sweetly whining fiddle, a choppy banjo part and a sparse bit of percussion. That might sound like a novelty concept, but it’s too precise, lead singer Rhiannon Giddens’ vocals are too good, the fiddle runs too sharp, to be dismissed as such. Similarly, the band’s work with beatboxing collaborator Adam Matta, especially on their 2012 album “Leaving Eden” (produced by Buddy Miller) does not seem out of place. Matta’s percussive vocals tend to hide, only revealing themselves after repeat listens — the modern technique moves beside rather than opposes the band.
Founding member and multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons, on the phone as the band (currently a trio consisting of Flemons, Giddens and Hubby Jenkins) drove to a show in Northampton, Mass.., last week, explained the group’s mission as a balancing act.
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Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops on how opening for the Dave Matthews Band differs from smaller club and theater shows: “It’s got a different vibe to it. It’s pretty neat to see the big spectacle of the gigantic arena-style rock show. It’s hard to connect to people in the same sort of way, when you have these 20,000-person crowds. It really becomes a different story. But it’s a thrill to play to a crowd that size.”
The Carolina Chocolate Drops will open for Dave Matthews Band on May 21 at the Austin360 Amphitheater.
Old Settler’s Music Festival
Where: The Salt Lick Pavilion and Camp Ben McCulloch, 18300 RM 1826, Driftwood
Cost: $60 single day ticket for Friday and Saturday; $25 Sunday; camping passes (which include Thursday) sold out
Carolina Chocolate Drops play the Old Settler’s Music Festival at 7:35 p.m. Friday on the Bluebonnet Stage.
More fest picks
Also playing this weekend at the Old Settler’s Music Festival (see the full schedule at oldsettlersmusicfest.org):
Son Volt (6:55 p.m. Friday, Hill Country Stage). Jay Farrar, a founding member (along with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy) of early 1990s alt-country darlings Uncle Tupelo, set out on his own with Son Volt, scoring something of a hit with the song “Drown,” which appeared on the band’s 1995 debut, “Trace.” Farrar has kept the group alive through a series of lineup changes, recently releasing a new album, “Honky Tonk,” which focuses on the melodic twang of the Bakersfield country sound.
The Del McCoury Band (8:30 p.m. Friday, Hill Country Stage). Among the biggest names in the world of bluegrass and beyond, Del McCoury did time fronting Bill Monroe’s band for a short stint in the 1960s; he worked as a part-time musician until the 1980s, when he rose to prominence, influencing musicians in his own genre as well as acts including jam band Phish and songwriter Steve Earle.
The Reivers (7:50 p.m. Saturday, Bluebonnet Stage). Former American-Statesman music critic Michael Corcoran once wrote that “no one smashed the pane between musicians and audience so jubilantly” as longtime Austin band the Reivers (once known as Zeitgeist, and then the Reivers, and then Right or Happy, and then the Reivers again). The band released a new album, “Second Story,” in January after a “brief hiatus of 22 years.”
The James Hunter Six (5:40 p.m. Saturday, Hill Country Stage). British soul singer James Hunter, who served as a member of Van Morrison’s band for a time, grew up in 1960s England with an eye (and ear) on American music of the time, and it shows — it’s hard not to hear the velvety style of Sam Cooke on tracks such as “People Gonna Talk.”