There are two types of music nerds. There are the nerds who derive pleasure from holding their knowledge over your head, periodically using that knowledge as a bludgeon against the less-initiated. Think Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity. And then there are the big-tent music nerds. They’re the ones who delight in telling you everything you want to know about a song or artist, sharing their enthusiasm freely and without pretension. Take a wild guess as to which nerd genus I’m more fond of.
I was reminded of this (admittedly oversimplified) dichotomy two Fridays ago, when I saw Carolina Chocolate Drops perform on Brown’s Island in Richmond, VA. There may be no more inviting group of big-tent music aficionados than this Durham-based old-time string band. A decent percentage of the songs they played were covers or traditionals (“Jackson” was a personal favorite), and they took the time to explain the origin of almost every one. Who wrote it. When. What style it represents. I love hearing this stuff. Not only do these pre-song explanations serve as a preemptive Wikipedia lookup, they foster this wonderful atmosphere of inclusion — an even playing field where everyone can participate fully and enthusiastically.
That aura of participation manifested itself literally near the end of the show, when the four-piece led a rendition of traditional song “Sourwood Mountain.” Check out the video above to see the band teach the crowd the A-A-B-A-patterned nonsense responses (it took us a few tries to nail down the irregular third line) before tearing into their energetic performance. Be sure to stick around for the guit-acrobatics that take place a little after the 3:00 mark. If you’re ready for more, listen below to “Country Girl,” an original tune from their most recent album, Leaving Eden, which arrived, sans shrink wrap, on my doorstep as an Easter present from my mom. Hey, I wouldn’t have been able to resist opening it either.