Carolina Chocolate Drops sweeten the present with the past at FlynnSpace

BURLINGTON Hey, all you young musicians out there! Unplug those pass_lectric guitars and pick up some banjos and fiddles instead. Were headed for a string-band revival! At least thats what Dom Flemons believes. Flemons is one of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio of young African-American string-band musicians carrying on the rich banjo and fiddle music tradition of the Carolinas Piedmont region. Flemons himself is from Arizona, but he met the other two Drops, Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson (both North Carolina natives), at a 2005 black banjo players gathering in Boone, NC. The trio came under the tutelage of 89-year-old Joe Thompson, described as the last black traditional string-band player, and they have been joyously traveling together back in time ever since. The Drops say that they are inspired by the West African concept of Sankofa. Symbolized by a bird that flies forward while looking backward, Sankofa literally means To move ahead, you must reclaim the past. That idea embodies the Drops masterful use of past musical heritage to enhance their contemporary performances. The Drops brought their vigorous music to FlynnSpace on Jan. 11. Opening their second show with the foot-thumping Little Rabbit, they entertained a packed house with a wide range of tunes including Dont Get Trouble in Your Mind, Jelly Roll Mortons Doctor Jazz, the hauntingly beautiful Po Lazarus, the fiercely fast Dona Got a Ramblin Mind (also the name of their latest CD), and the Short Life of Trouble waltz, which inspired a couple to dance near the stage. One of the highlights of the night was their following up the lively Old Rattler, with Hit em Up Style (Oops!), Blu Cantrells revenge-minded 2001 hit song. The heat generated by the spirited song pairing may have caused Giddens to regret that she had worn a turtleneck sweater, part of her preparation for anticipated below-zero Vermont weather. The sweater did not, however, deter her from doing a couple of vivacious dances onstage. If you want to taste the Drops sweetness online, the Internet offers many opportunities. In addition to trusty old YouTube.com, try the wonderful MusicMaker.org, a website maintained by Music Maker Relief Foundation (MMRF) to help the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern music gain recognition and meet their day to day needs. If you like the Drops, you will not want to miss MMRFs Piedmont Blues page. Bob Dylan created a controversy when he went electric at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival. Cant you just see it now? Dylan takes the stage at a famous jazz festival this summer with the crowd expecting him to play his electric guitar. Instead, he brings out a four-string banjo. How sweet it will be.

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