Sunday, June 04, 2006

Women of Bluegrass - Hazel & Alice

Nowadays the bluegrass music charts seem to be full of very talented women. Allison Krause, Rhonda Vincent, Allison Brown, ...

When Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard teamed up in the early 1960s, they doubled the number of serious female bluegrass artists. The only other women able to make inroads into this male-dominated musical style were Molly O'Day and Wilma Lee Cooper (although she is most often remembered for her years as a duet with husband, Stoney Cooper, Wilma Lee continued her career after Stoney's death.)

Hazel Dickens was born in Mercer County, West Virginia. Her father, a teamster carrying timber for the local coal mines, picked banjo. Her brothers played guitar and mandolin, and Hazel sang in the choir at church. In the 1950s her brothers moved to Baltimore to avoid a dismal life in the coal mines. Hazel followed and began playing and singing in the local clubs and taverns. While in Baltimore Hazel met a classically trained singer named Alice Gerrard. The two formed a friendship and started performing together.

Although mostly known for their renditions of nearly forgotten old-time, mountain, and hillbilly tunes, during the 1960s Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard recorded many bluegrass standards. In 1996 Smithsonian Folkways released a collection of the duo's bluegrass recordings entitled "Pioneering Women of Bluegrass". I consider this recording an essential part of any bluegrass collection.
Get your copy at Smithsonian Folkways or Amazon.

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard - Darling Nellie.mp3

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard - Coal Miner's Blues.mp3


Blogger Darcy said...

Just been catching up. Hugely enjoyable entries as always. Thanks.
(re the f word in may28 post you do realise of course that it has a different meaning in the UK, the sometimes glaring differences in meaning between US & UK English always make's me chuckle).

June 06, 2006 6:16 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hi Darcy, I believe the meaning you use in the UK is the same as one use here in the States. We tend to over use that word as a catch-all besides its intended use. In this case perhaps "pissed" would be the equal in the UK.

I once spent over a year sharing a construction trailer with six Englishmen and a Scot. I survived, but came away with a whole new appreciation of the English language!

June 06, 2006 5:22 PM  

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