Well Brian, I have to admit I am jealous of you. you got to meet one of my biggest idols in music. It was because of her that I continued to keep playing banjo after I first started. Now that 'im also doing minstrel tunes, its even better! After work tonight i'm going to buy that new album you are talking about and blast it on the way home :)
This thread has wandered and gone many directions.....very good! One point I see brought up is that somebody who is ALREADY commercially successful yields great power to draw attention to the genre. It may not be the focus, but it puts it on the table.
Its a funny thing Ryan, I'm sorry to admit I didn't know Rhiannon by name or by sight when we met. She was just another Minstrel Banjo Enthusiast at the weekend event but she does have a fantastic voice and it wasn't long after that I happened to be watching the Bring me the Banjo special on Natgeo and I recognized her! Its a small world in Minstrel banjo. Be sure to listen for the minstrel banjo playing. I am sure I have picked it up in at least four of the songs on the album.
As I mentioned, the C.Chocolate Drops are performing much minstrel material on stage now, including songs stories and bones, and they are a VERY popular group. There are other old-time musicians performing both minstrel and old-time music on gourd banjos, on minstrel banjos. Some of these people are well known in old-time music circles and festivals- though 'fame' in the old-time world is admittedly somewhat limited. But I suspect old-time bands and musicians are substantially more commercially viable than Civil war re-enacting folk.
In the old-time festival world, there is a huge resurgence going on right now where young people in their 30's are taking up the cause with enthusiasm- many of them are really into the old stuff, wearing young hipster combos of retro clothing, playing the Old Dead Guy material..... it's already happening.
That's where I'll be this weekend, at a small local old-time festival with my gourd banjer! Gonna meet up with another member from here who just has a minstrel banjo and just got his new gourd... =8-D
So, integrating this music into genres / sets that already exist does present some possibilities for commercial acceptance. The audience already there, and they have been brought along in a show....receptors are open.
I think with a band like the C. Chocolate Drops that are successful with their style of music, there will be more bands emulating that sound, CCD will/have influenced a lot of musicians new and old. I think we will see more music that embraces that style of music played out in a variety of settings and not just in a historical reenacting environment. I have yet to see them live, but everything else I have heard or seen video wise really gives me the impression that the Carolina Chocolate Drops embrace many styles of music from the minstrel period to early 20th century, right on down to bluegrass. I hope we see more bands with the same approach. I think now is an interesting time for a resurgence of this era of music. You can't escape the lure and effect it has on the ear. For me it fills a familiar spot in my soul. Glad to see it happening.