Hazel Dickens: It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song | Chicago Reader

Hazel Dickens: It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song

This 2000 video documentary on bluegrass-country singer Hazel Dickens follows the conventions of the genre, mixing interviews of musicians, concert footage, and archival stills and movies, but it's far better than average, in part because director Mimi Pickering lets the music do most of the talking and treats her additions more as commentaries than as controlling interpretations. Born in rural West Virginia, Dickens moved to Baltimore at 16, found work in a factory and immediately bought a guitar. Her prolabor songs flow directly out of her day job experiences, from waitressing to can inspecting—she even wrote one at work on the back of an inventory form—and while their confrontational stance may strike some as anachronistic, her unaffected singing style, somewhere between melody and emotionally inflected speech, has a rare sincerity and directness. 61 min.

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