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Originally published Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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New CD shows Carolina Chocolate Drops at their best

A review of The Carolina Chocolate Drops' new CD, "Leaving Eden."

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Carolina Chocolate Drops, 'Leaving Eden' (Nonesuch)

Winning a Grammy for your first album might have intimidated lesser souls, but the Carolina Chocolate Drops — an African-American folk-roots trio — have turned in a second disc that's even better than the first. The Drops' banjo 'n' bones romps through mountain music give a spare, percussive, African-American twist (sometimes with panpipes called quills) to the kind of haunting strains folkies may already know from Mike and Pete Seeger, among others.

Untainted by ethnographic purism, the group ranges outside traditional lines, including Rhiannon Giddens' vibrato-drenched revival of the Ethel Waters Broadway declaration of independence, "No Man's Mama," Hazel Dickens' melancholy "Pretty Bird" and even a lovely original ballad, "Country Girl."

My favorite is the chunky, trotting blues track "Boodle-De-Bum-Bum," the nonsense chorus of which affectionately conjures the hokum street-corner entertainment the Chocolate Drops specialize in. The title track, written by the brilliant Laurelyn Dossett, references the demise of North Carolina's textile mills, reinforcing this trio's latent message that the past and present are a continuum and that traditional music has no monopoly on suffering.

Paul de Barros,

Seattle Times jazz critic

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Robert Glasper, "Black Radio" (Blue Note)

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