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By the Sweat of My Brow

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Album Review

On By the Sweat of My Brow, the "First Lady of Bluegrass" strays from her familiar protest songs and focuses on traditionally themed orphan ballads and tormented love songs, many of which were penned by Dickens herself. Her gruff West Virginia voice stomps its way through the rough-and-tumble "Are They Gonna Make Us Outlaws Again," but still gently croons during the tender "Scars of an Old Love." Although she certainly paved the way for female neo-traditional folk artists like Gillian Welch and Iris Dement, no other artist in the latter half of the 20th century really captured the hardship and struggle of rural coal-town living like Hazel Dickens did in every syllable, and this album represents the high point of an artist at the high point of her career.


Born: June 1, 1935 in Mercer County, WV

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Protest and folksinger Hazel Dickens grew up the eighth of 11 children in a large, poor mining family in West Virginia, and she used elements of country and bluegrass to spread truth about two causes close to her heart: the plight of non-unionized mineworkers and feminism, born not of the '60s movement but traditional values. Born June 1, 1935, in Mercer County, West Virginia, Dickens learned about music from her father, an occasional banjo player and Baptist minister who drove trucks for a mining...
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By the Sweat of My Brow, Hazel Dickens
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