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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard

Sing Me Back Home: The Dc Tapes, 1965-1969 – 2018 (Free Dirt)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard

Even novice bluegrass fans know the famous male duos, including the Stanley Brothers and the Louvin Brothers. There isn't really a famous female pairing equivalent, although Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard come close. With "Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes 1965-1969," we get to hear these two musical pioneers performing familiar songs, both old and new.

Recorded in Gerrard's living room during the duo's rehearsals, this release from the mid to late sixties captures the act's raw purity. It's not up to modern day studio standards, but on the emotional scale, it rates a 10.

As with nearly every bluegrass recording, this collection includes some gospel music. Their arrangement of "This Little Light of Mine" is revved up to speed and sounds revival meeting-ready. The collection opens with "Bye Bye Love," a song primarily associated with the Everly Brothers, which puts a feminine spin on this song of lost love. The most notable inclusion is "Sing Me Back Home," that sadder-than-sad Merle Haggard prison lament. It's sung over a lone autoharp accompaniment and sounds just the way one might expect The Carter Family to have sung it. This performance is stopped suddenly and temporarily for a quick fix; it is a rehearsal, after all.

This is an album where the listener is a fly on the wall while groundbreaking music is being created, and there's really nothing cooler than that.