Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Hazel Dickens
Sunday, Oct. 3, Noon
Banjo Stage
Reviewed by Mike Alexis

Once again Warren Hellman got on stage, this time to introduce "the one and only" Hazel Dickens. His fondness for Dickens is widely known and he confirmed it that afternoon by telling the crowd that she is "why this festival exists." Before they began, Dickens charmed the crowd saying, "We're froze to death up here, but we're back," followed by, "I had this pretty little dress I was going to wear, but I just couldn't put it on."

Hazel and her band started with "Aragon Mill" which she told us is her favorite Si Kahn song. Her high, forceful voice was in full effect here and she wasn't letting the cold get to her (except for a lot of nose blowing, which she called "maintenance work"). Next came "Working Girl Blues," a cut-and-dried bluegrass song penned by Dickens about working when she'd rather be playing. Another set highlight was when she switched to singing tenor and gave guitarist Dudley Connell a chance to sing lead. She said it reminded her of when she played the bars in Baltimore and I bet she sang low like that just as forcefully that afternoon as she did way back then.

The biggest highlights, however, were her stirring, well-known protest songs. The incisive "Mannington Mine," about the 78 West Virginian miners who lost their lives caught everyone's attention, except perhaps the person towards the front whom Dickens scolded for talking on a cell phone. The equally cutting and timely song "Who Will Wash the Bloodstains Off Your Hands" replete with the line "Bloodthirsty warriors don't know when to quit" received hearty cheers from the audience. In what was possibly the most political moment of the festival she told the crowd that she brought the song back into her repertoire because of George W. Bush and said, "Hopefully this time we'll get rid of him." When she ad-libbed a verse directed right at him it followed with a round of cheers and a standing ovation at the song's end.

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