Review: Cold Chocolate

If you need more evidence that Boston is one of the cutting edges of the new string band sound, you only need to drop Cold Chocolate’s self-titled new album onto your choice of media player for confirmation.
Billing themselves as a fusion of roots and bluegrass with a touch of funk, a couple of listens to the album finds the emphasis on old-time and even a touch of jazz to go along with some of the ‘grass. “Roots” is indeed an apt description. If rock hadn’t already grabbed “Americana” as a genre, I would surely have applied it for this band.

Ethan Robbins is a classically trained violinist turned acoustic guitar after his dad influenced him with Hank Williams, The Band, Bob Dylan, John Hartford, and the Grateful Dead.
Kirsten Lamb met Ethan at Oberlin College and is another multi-instrumentalist coming out of a musical family; she roots the sound of the band with the upright bass. James McIver is a MIT physicist now pushing the musical envelope on the 5-string banjo. Ariel Bernstein is the snare drum/percussionist filling out the band’s sound and also producing this studio album.

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“Steppin’ Out”

All the songs on the album are originals, except for John Hartford’s “Grand Ole Opry.” The album opens with “Operator,” which is a fine introduction to their old-timey sound. The second song, “Just Be On My Way,” invokes the sound of John Hartford straight from the opening bars and will set your fingers to tapping along. “Steppin’ Out” brings in some of the funk and a bit of honkytonk, too. “Cry Wolf” brings in some smokey jazz-flavored vocals. “Push and Shove” is a fast paced banjo driven song that shows “roots” does not mean “slow” and is one of my favorite tunes on the album. The album closes out with “Grand Ole Opry.” I need only say John Hartford would be proud. These are just a few of the songs. You need to get the album to get a feel for the full breadth and depth of this band.

Roots. Definitely roots. Take your memories back to grandpa’s big old radio playing in the living room, screen doors banging with kids running in and out, the big swing chair squeaking on the porch, and your dad whistling to the music. This one will get you there.

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