Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard (from the album Sing me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 available on Free Dirt Records)
Born to a West Virginia mining family in 1925, Hazel Dickens moved to Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1950’s where she met Mike Seeger, half-brother to Folkie Pete Seeger and founding member of The New Lost City Ramblers. Mike introduced Hazel to the healthy Folk/Bluegrass scene in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area as well as to his wife, Seattle-born Alice Gerrard. Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard played jam sessions together, the pair noticing the blend of their own voices and instruments. They formed a duo, their debut album coming out on Folkways Records in 1965 with Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard recording another album for Folkways before moving over to Rounder Records for two albums before the band break-up in 1976.
Free Dirt Records releases newly found gems of live recordings from Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard garnered from the duo’s formative years with Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969. The pair broke ground for Bluegrass music, mixing in traditional string band music from The Carter Family and the Louvin Brothers with contemporary hits such as The Everly Brothers “Bye Bye Love”. While later work would storm the barricades with political content, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard showcase a mutual love of the old songs from Appalachia as their music carved out a spot for women in the world of Bluegrass music. The recordings on Sing Me Back Home were recorded in Alice’s living room, practice sessions that show the intricate harmony (“This Little Light of Mine”, “No Telephone in Heaven”) and love of mountain Folk music (“Seven Year Blues”, “No One to Welcome Me Home”) as the songs show the influence of the Blues from the delta (“No Hard Times”) and from the country (“James Alley Blues”). Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes 1965-1969 offers previously unheard tracks (with one exception), as Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard find joy in their own singing and playing, working through the songs in the mountain traditions.
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