Tamar Korn sings "Pretty Bird" acapella. A tribute to Appalachian bluegrass musician and songwriter Hazel Dickens (1935-2011).
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"One human right is the right to feel deeply," says Tamar, who admires those artists who can "bridge social justice to pure musicality." American bluegrass singer, songwriter, double bassist and guitarist Hazel Dickens (1935-2011) was just such an artist.
Born to an eleven-child West Virginian mining family, Dickens learned folk music instrumentation while working in Baltimore factories in the 1950s. She began touring on the upright bass accompanied by guitarist Alice Gerrard in the 1960s and 1970s. Their album "Who's That Knocking" is considered a premiere recording of bluegrass music with woman bandleaders. Dickens' later solo work was characterized not only by her high, lonesome singing style, but also by her provocative pro-labor, feminist songs. Appalachia was (and still is, in places) a region of dire rural poverty and cultural isolation. Major deposits of anthracite and bituminous coal fostered a dangerous regional coal industry there, with West Virginia playing host to the most dire to-date American disasters. Dickens recorded "Black Lung" in tribute to her miner brother, who died of the disease with nary a dollar to bury himself.
Tamar is motivated by the possibility of music as a just social action: "I consider it a progressive act simply to focus genuinely on music that seeks to express oneself and hear others with a universal sense of humanity. It being music, the humanity need not even words to be felt. And lyrically, even love songs and heartache songs can fit fine into this scheme if played with an intention to share truthful feeling. One person expressing individual experience and emotions loosens others' emotions, thoughts, and memories, and as I heard Nellie McKay say, 'Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion.'"
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