Carolina Chocolate Drops

5 Acts You’ll Want to Catch at New Orleans’ Jazz Fest

Carolina Chocolate DropsThis weekend some of the biggest names in music made their way down to New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, but we’re spotlighting some of those acts you might not yet know.

Take a look at the bill for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and you’ll see names like Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffett, Foo Fighters, Cee Lo Green and tons of others who belong to the star-studded milieu. But the festival, which kicked off Friday and lasts through Sunday, May 6, is also featuring a wealth of artists and bands you may not have heard about yet.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 artists every music lover will either want to catch at the festival or get on your iPod in honor of this week’s festivities. While they’re not all fully under-the-radar per se, here are five of the trombone-slinging, dance-inducing voices and musicians who will make this year’s festival great.

Carolina Chocolate Drops1. Carolina Chocolate Drops

OK, so it might not be fair to consider this group under-the-radar — especially after they netted a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy last year for their debut record “Genuine Negro Jig” — but there’s still a chance you haven’t heard of them. A string band known for their exploration of African-American roots and musical influence over the years, the Chocolate Drops first came together in 2005 in North Carolina. Since then, they have taken their foot-stomping, finger-picking 1920s sound all over the nation playing Bonnaroo and even opening for Bob Dylan. Their new album, “Leaving Eden” just dropped in February.

Theresa Andersson2. Theresa Andersson

No, that’s not a typo. This New Orleans-based singer-songwriter does have a rather unconventionally spelled last name. But that’s not all that sets her apart from the run-of-the-mill songwriters. Andersson possesses a jazzy voice, which she layers over multiple textures and musical themes, sometimes sounding like something out of “Dreamgirls” and other times pulling out a kind of Nina Simone soul. The young songstress just released her newest record, “Street Parade” Monday (April 24).


Honey Island Swamp Band3. Honey Island Swamp Band

This five-man collective out of New Orleans has the ability to at once make you feel like you’re in an old saloon and then a second later place you smack in the middle of an arena country concert. Formed when four displaced friends had to relocate to San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina, the Honey Island Swamp Band are upbeat, soulful and just twangy enough to pull you into their funky, piano-driven blues.


Glen Hansard4. Glen Hansard

After coming to fame as the Irish musician on the film “Once,” Glen Hansard has been touring as part of the duo The Swell Season. Now, the Academy Award-winning singer with the enchantingly folksy voice is doing a string of solo gigs. Hansard was recently heard channeling a heavy rock edge on the song “Take the Heartland,” which he wrote and performed for the box office smash film “The Hunger Games.”


Sarah Jarosz5. Sarah Jarosz

This multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter began her career as a bit of a child prodigy, performing with the likes of Ricky Skaggs when she was only 16. As she’s grown, Jarosz has fully come into herself as a songstress and a writer with powerful lyrics and music alike. With her haunting and classic melodies, she exudes a beautiful vintage patina tempered by some modern and pop influence felt heavily in her work.


Even if you’re not headed down to the bayou anytime this week, check out these artists and get into the spirit of Jazz Fest 2012.