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The Carolina Chocolate Drops will perform at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre on February 17 at 8 p.m. Opening act is M. Shanghai String Band featuring Asbury Park resident Richard Morris.

It’s a sound that’s as old as the hills — even if, technically, the genre known as “Americana” has only existed as a Grammy-recognized category for two years.

For the Grammy winning, North Carolina-based troupe of troubadours known as The Carolina Chocolate Drops, the specialty of the house is the African American string and jug-band sound that helped transform American popular music during the radio-and-phonograph era of the 1920s and 30s.

In a little more than five years since playing their first impromptu gig, the Drops have topped the Billboard bluegrass charts (with their 2010 debut release Genuine Negro Jig) and demonstrated the ongoing relevance of legacy sounds in an anything-goes musical landscape — an approach that’s found them mixing fiddles, kazoos, and banjos with elements of hip-hop and alt-country.

On the night of Friday, February 17, the three vocalists and multi-instrumentalists of The Carolina Chocolate Drops (“strong and sometimes dangerous” singer Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons, and newest member Hubby Jenkins) are joined by cellist Leyla McCalla in their first visit to the Pollak Theatre, on the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University.

Presented by the Center for the Arts at Monmouth as part of the 2011-2012 Performing Arts series, the 8 p.m. concert arrives just days in advance of the release date for Leaving Eden, the current configuration’s recorded debut on Nonesuch Records, and a highly anticipated set that finds the Chocolate Drops working with sought-after producer Buddy Miller (Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Robert Plant) on a set of originals and covers that includes the spotlight track “Country Girl.”

Opening for The Carolina Chocolate Drops will be one of the hottest acts on the region’s burgeoning roots-music scene — the Brooklyn-based M Shanghai String Band, a celebrated ten-to-eleven piece combo known for performing “Opry style” around a single microphone (as well as having taken their name from the Chinese restaurant where they first convened to practice). Featuring the mandolin mastery of Monmouth County’s own Richard Morris, and co-fronted by guitarist and songwriter Matthew Schickele — son of PDQ Bach professor and past Pollak Theatre performer Peter Schickele — the Shanghai collective offers up a “one from Column A, one from Column B” musical menu that Time Out NY described as “vigorous, heartfelt, acoustic country with all the fixins!”

Check out this video of the Carolina Chocolate Drops:  Appearance on CNN

For additional information, or to purchase tickets, please contact the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at