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

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From the coalfields of West Virginia to the factories of Baltimore, Hazel Dickens has lived the songs she sings. A pioneering woman in Bluegrass and hardcore country music, Hazel has influenced generations of songwriters and musicians. Her songs of hard work, hard times, and hardy souls have bolstered working people at picket lines and union rallies throughout the land. Her piercing vocals power the soundtracks for Harlan County USA and Matewan. The Washington Post described her as "a living legend of American music, a national treasure," and in 2001, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a National Heritage Fellowship. In this intimate portrait, interviews with Hazel and fellow musicians such as Alison Krauss, Naomi Judd, and Dudley Connell are interwoven with archival footage, recent performances, and 16 powerful songs including “Mama’s Hand,” “ Working Girl Blues,” and “Black Lung.”

Hard To Tell The Singer From The Song profiles a "modern" woman dealing with contemporary issues from a feminist perspective which has evolved from her own experiences, being Appalachian, being displaced physically and culturally, being poor and working class, being a woman artist in a man's world, and being a bearer of tradition.

Note: Included on the DVD release is additional concert performances captured during the making of the documentary.


“The film is among the most graceful to come out of Appalshop… It definitely does justice to the raw honesty of Dickens’ words and the truth of her experience.” - Bob Pest, Ozark Foothills Film Festival

“The screening was great, just about everyone in the theater gathered in the lobby afterwards to talk about the greatness of Hazel and Mimi’s film.” – Jim Demps, Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute of Chicago

“Impressive.” –Geoffrey Himes, No Depression magazine

Screenings & Festivals

Athens International Film & Video Festival

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

New York University

Experience Music, Seattle

Northwest Film Center, Portland Art Museum

Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago Art Institute

Nashville Independent Film Festival

Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley

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