I’ve been going to the Carter Fold just across the Virginia state line from Kingsport almost as long as it’s been in existence–a one-of-a-kind acoustic performance center built and run by the First Family of country music. From the start, audience members have been welcome to get up and clog along with the songs. For years, people danced in whatever shoes they had on–sneakers, cowboy boots, work boots, and you name it. Now, however, cloggers are showing up with tap shoes designed to make as much noise as possible. Finally, a band said “Enough!”
The band that night was Hunter Berry and Friends. Hunter is a gifted fiddle player in Rhonda Vincent’s band, and he’s her son-in-law as well. His friends that night were a collection of talented pickers who delivered a wonderful show–when they could be heard.
Every time a fast song came on, the cloggers wearing shoes from hell came out on the concrete floor in front of the stage and began their racket. Overweight women clacked and clattered and displayed flapping chests that looked possessed. I have nothing against clogging groups with taps. Dancing in rhythm, their use of taps allows them to demonstrate their synchronization and talent.
But there was no such synchronicity at the Carter Fold. Every time a remotely fast song came on, the music had to compete with an industrial sound that transformed “Angel Band” into the “Anvil Chorus.” Hunter Berry, brave soul, asked the cloggers to hold off during slower songs so that the audience could hear the lyrics. You could tell that the noisemakers weren’t used to hearing that, but they began to back off. Later in the evening, a grey-haired woman took it on herself to walk out onto the floor and ask cloggers to sit down during the quieter songs.
Three cheers for Hunter Berry and his faithful companion who tried to keep the focus of the Carter Fold on where it ought to be: the music. Cloggers should leave their rackety taps at home.