Newport Folk Festival: The Carolina Chocolate Drops
Let’s just put it out there: The Carolina Chocolate Drops are the reason the Newport Folk Festival exists. If the reason is to continue the history and tradition of American Folk music, they apply, performing lively interpretations of some of the greatest traditional folk songs. In fact, the quartet is fresh off of their Grammy win for Best Traditional Folk Album. If the goal of the festival is simply to entertain you, the Chocolate Drops accomplished that by simply performing one of the liveliest sets on Sunday. We watched as Dom, Adam, Rhiannon and Hubby killed it on the main Fort Stage. One of our favorite moments of the festival was watching their finale, as Rhiannon got up and danced, and Dom flipped his banjo around his back to the audience’s delight.
We met up with them a few hours after their show, and set up camp under the shade of a tree near the fort walls. Nearby, Ramblin Jack Elliot was performing a song and was surprised with a cake for his 80th birthday. We set up and waited for that excitement to die down (Dom and Hubby sneaking over to catch a glimpse of the legend blowing out his candles), and finally we were ready.
As they figured out what songs they would play, we were excited to see Hubby and Dom take out their sets of bones. They both reminded us of William Sydney Mount’s famous painting, The Bones Player, which hangs here in town at the MFA, and we took out of phones to show Hubby the image. The tradition of playing the bones stretches all the way back to the early days of minstrelsy, and Dom and Hubby were about to show us a thing or two. Building on Brigg’s Corn Shucking Jig, itself from the original banjo instruction manuals of the 1850s, Dom and Hubby layered it with some furious bones playing. Starting off our session with them as they dueled was just plain fun to watch, as their skill and enjoyment was infectious. Predictably, they drew a crowd that stuck with us for the rest of their set. After that, they each took turns sitting and playing the lead for us. Hubby sang I Truly Understand that You Love Another Man, and Dom finished out our session with Run Mountain. We had a blast with these incredible musicians, and we hope you enjoy the videos.
Corn Shucking Jig, from Brigg’s Banjo Instructor:
I Truly Understand that You Love Another Man: