Review: Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Sage Gateshead

By the end of the evening, nothing more could surprise me about Carolina Chocolate Drops.

The banjo band The Carolina Chocolate Drops

By the end of the evening, nothing more could surprise me about Carolina Chocolate Drops.

They play the bones, sing in Gaelic, chat about the history of minstrels and tune up 1840s’ revival banjos.

The spirited band are so knowledgeable about old time American music that the gig is, in part, a lesson in the development of music in the southern states since slavery. The history lesson is all part of the easy patter, though, and does nothing to detract from the energetic force of musical entertainment. Formed in 2005, the band has a wide-ranging repertoire to choose from, including from their latest album, Leaving Eden, and Grammy award-winner, Genuine Negro Jig.

The virtuoso trio are performing as a quartet on this tour with New Orleans cellist Leyla McCalla, whose style works beautifully with the band’s masterful blend of blues, jazz, gospel and string-band.

The tunes are a mix of traditional and modern, with the song Leaving Eden, about the people left behind when the mill closes, chiming a chord with the sell-out crowd.

 

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