9/30: Carolina Chocolate Drops at Kent Stage

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Appalachian string music can seem mighty monochromatic. But this wasn’t always the case. The all-black Carolina Chocolate Drops learned much of their traditional Piedmont repertoire from North Carolina fiddler Joe Thompson, who’s known as the last black traditional string-band player. The Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson trade tight harmonies and traditional instruments, ranging from snare, banjo, fiddle and guitar to bones, jug and kazoo. It could be a gimmick, but they’re fine players with a sense of history and humor, which comes out in their energetic performances and inspired song choices. Indeed, once you get past the reinvigorating vibrancy of their old-timey sound, you’re struck by their charisma and stage presence. While traditional songs predominate, the group isn’t above overhauling a modern classic, like its beatbox-banjo-fiddle cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ’Em Up Style,” which showcases Giddens’ lithe and powerful vocals. The Drops are supporting their second album, last year’s Heritage, a French import whose distribution has unfortunately been limited. Words can’t do them justice; seeing is believing. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Kent Stage (175 E. Main St., Kent, 330.677.5005). Tickets: $15 advance, $20 day of show. — Chris Parker

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