Free Dirt Records to release Hazel & Alice kitchen tapes

New, previously-unreleased tracks from the dynamic bluegrass and old-time duo Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard are set for release later this year on Free Dirt Records. Today it is announced that Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 will hit on September 21.

Recently discovered by Gerrard while going through boxes in her basement, the album will feature 19 songs captured as home recordings long before Hazel and Alice became prominent in folk and acoustic music circles. Only one has ever been commercially available before, and the disc offers a fascinating glimpse into the developing style of these two bluegrass pioneers, inducted last year into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame.

With Hazel now gone, fans will surely cherish this opportunity to hear the raw, emotive singing styles that made Hazel and Alice so popular as folksingers right at their start together. Recorded in Alice’s kitchen on her reel-to-reel machine, these work tapes now preserve something fundamental from what came to be known as the DC sound.

Courtesy of the folks at Free Dirt, we can share with you one of the tracks, their bare-bones recordings of Cannonball Blues, which Gerrard recalls learning from the First Family of country music.

“Hazel and I heard and learned this song from the Carter Family. Many artists, including Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan and Bill Clifton, have recorded versions of this song that were basically from the Carter Family, too. Both Hazel and I are throwing out comments during the song.”

The CD will also included detailed liner notes with some history on each song, plus Alice’s memories of the times when they were recorded, like this one…

“There was lots of throat clearing, kids running in and out, page turning, mistakes, some out-of-tuneness, both vocal and instrumental (we never used tuners back then)… We stopped, we began again—we were practicing amid some chaos most of the time. At that point I was a single mom with four children, and Hazel was working a full time job in a retail shop.

This is Hazel and I unplugged, un-produced, unaccompanied (except by ourselves), warts and all, wailing our hearts out.”

Pre-orders are enabled now at the Free Dirt Records web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.