The often overlooked African American string band tradition has been given a dazzling dose of fresh vibrancy by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio with major chops (two are classically trained), but, more significantly, an instinctive feel for the grainy origins of their rich source material. That largely comes from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, where octogenarian fiddler Joe Thompson, said to be the last trad black string band player, helped Justin Robinson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Dom Flemons hone their sound. Led by banjos, fleshed out by fiddles, accented by jug, harmonica, and guitar, and given dimension by sprightly vocals, their music at once reflects the gritty cultural legacy of the Piedmont's hills and coursing creeks, as well as the bristling vitality of its revived vintage tone. The Drops' 2007 release, Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind (Music Maker), is full of exhilarating instrumental work that practically jumps off the CD and vocals that seem to have escaped from a tintype. Included are tunes about "Ol' Corn Likker," ghostly visitations, and a brilliant, old-timey reworking of "Dixie" that seems right out of Cold Mountain.
Sun., Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m., 2008