Carolina Chocolate Drops | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Carolina Chocolate Drops 

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Even though the banjo originated in Africa, there aren't many contemporary African-American musicians taking cues from the black string bands whose work is preserved on old 78s and recent compilations like Old Hat's splendid Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Blow! But the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio from North Carolina ranging in age from 25 to 30, have stepped in to fill the breach, demonstrating in workshops, onstage, and in classrooms what they've learned from octogenarian fiddler Joe Thompson. On Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind (Music Maker), Justin Robinson and Rhiannon Gibbons, who both play fiddle and banjo, and multi-instrumentalist Don Flemons share their take on the Piedmont tradition. They emphasize a vibrant ensemble sound over individual virtuosity, and all three take turns on lead vocals. Gibbons's a cappella renditions of the betrayal ballad "Little Margaret" and the chain-gang chant "Another Man Done Gone" provide a nice change of pace from galloping full-band versions of "Georgie Buck" and "Sourwood Mountain." a 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 kids and seniors. A --Bill Meyer

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