Carolina Chocolate Drops

Resurrecting the nearly buried and forgotten African-American string-band tradition—specifically of the Carolinas' Piedmont region—initially may suggest an intellectual exercise, especially coming from the three versatile, virtuoso musicians who constitute the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But Justin Robinson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Dom Flemons play with such joyful immediacy that the sepia tones of their largely vintage material quickly blossom into full color, coursing with vibrant spirit that's riddled with old-timey flair and anything but creaky. All three switch off on vocals and banjo (an instrument with African origins, not incidentally) and were tutored by ninety-something Joe Thompson, considered the last living link to the black Piedmont legacy. Robinson and Giddens, both classically trained, also play fiddle; Flemons plays guitar; and various members weigh in on such things as bones, jug, and kazoo. The Drops' latest, Genuine Negro Jig, collects such trad tunes as "Cornbread and Butterbeans," which talks about "eatin' them beans and makin' love as long as I am able," the title piece (renamed "Snowden's Jig" for its apparent mid-19th century composer), whose ethereal minimalism flirts with modern avant-garde, and the sprightly dance tune "Cindy Gal." Easily slipping into the same spirit are a pair of originals, plus covers of Tom Waits's "Trampled Rose" and Blu Cantrell's 2001 R&B hit "Hit 'Em Up Style," providing another neat contemporary link. The Twin Cities' Roma di Luna will open with its own takes on vintage Appalachian sounds.
Fri., Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m., 2010

 
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