Nouveau Oldtime Jam: Blind Boy Paxton, Dom Flemons (of Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Frank Fairfield

By Xeni Jardin

(Watch video: YouTube, Dotsub, or download MP4.)

Blind Boy Paxton, Village Studios, Santa Monica, November 2009. A quick little goodie from Boing Boing Video. Last night, I sat in on a live recording session at Santa Monica's Village Studios with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, described as "African-American string band revivalists." They were amazing: I have never been so emotionally moved by someone playing a musical jug (and banjos, fiddles, cow bones, and kazoos). Their performance was witnessed by a handful of music biz folks and oldtime music enthusiasts, and made me feel deeply homesick for Appalachia (I'm also craving cornbread and butterbeans today - there's a song for that).

The Chocolate Drops have a new record coming out in 2010, and Boing Boing will be all over it like gravy on grits. If you dig R. Crumb, Smithsonian Folkways recordings of pre-blues and pre-bluegrass banjo music, and love folks who bring new life to authentic American music, you will flip out.

So, the video above: after the Drops' performance and recording session ended, Dom Flemons (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, seated in center in the video), Blind Boy Paxton (seated at left in the video), and Frank Fairfield (seated far right) sat down together and jammed pure, sweet magic for a spell. I wasn't prepared with a proper camera or crew, but I grabbed my iPhonetraption out of my pocket and got to shootin'. I hope you enjoy it as much as everyone in the room did. Pure magic, these guys.

(Special thanks to Joe Henry; Jeff Greenberg of Village Studios; Tom Osborn, Warner Bros. Records; David Bither, Nonesuch Records, and to Boing Boing Video's tireless editor, Eric Mittleman.)


Published 10:32 am Fri, Nov 6, 2009

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About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email:

9 Responses to “Nouveau Oldtime Jam: Blind Boy Paxton, Dom Flemons (of Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Frank Fairfield”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a great article. I had the pleasure of attending college for a stint with Mr Jerron Paxton, and that man is not only entertaining with his music, but also his sense of humor. Never in my life have I seen a blind man walk smack into the side of a door and then laugh about it with the entire room.

  2. kiddharma says:

    Had the pleasure of seeing the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Great Lakes Folk Fest a couple years back: for a trio, they kick some string band butt. This vid’s got me hankerin’ for some corn meal mush fried in bacon grease. Ok, some butterbeans, too.

  3. hobomike says:

    Luv it!

    btw, not to be a stickler but that’s in West LA, not Santa Monica. :-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I heard these folks in concert at Dartmouth in Hanover NH – everything you said is the Gospel truth and more. If you have the chance go hear these people!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I do own a copy of Hobart Smith’s Smithsonian Folkway’s collection– I am flipping out already. Thank you for spreading the word of this amazing band!

  6. billstewart says:

    Aren’t the Carolina Chocolate Drops amazing? I heard them a couple of years ago at Rockygrass.

  7. Stacy DeHart says:

    Frank will be playing a string of shows heading north to Oregon and Washington starting this week!

    Check his myspace for more details.


  8. danwarning says:

    I was lucky enough to run into Dom when I was in Northampton, MA before a Chocolate Drops show and what a nice guy! I also managed to shoot a few videos of the show too and threw them up on youtube:


  9. Anonymous says:

    This is great! It is neat to see “fore-arm style” fiddle playing! It sounds a bit different and is not usually seen nowdays… very nice combination of sounds in this tune!!

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