[Editor’s Note: In this special edition of Acoustic Guitar Sessions, bluegrass guitarist Laurie Lewis and mandolinist Tom Rozum perform the Carter Family classic “Who’s That Knocking ?” and “Won’t You Come and Sing for Me?”, two songs from Lewis’ stunning tribute to Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. Lewis—sometimes solo, sometimes with Rozum, and at other times with the rest of the Right Hands—is touring in support of the album. Meanwhile, here is a review of the album from the April 2016 issue.]
Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands
The Hazel and Alice Sessions (Spruce & Maple Music)
With treetop-shaking harmonies and a vibrant “take no guff” attitude, singer and bassist Hazel Dickens and guitarist Alice Gerrard revitalized1960s bluegrass while setting the male-dominated establishment on its ear. Laurie Lewis, who gave the scene a similar shake-up in the 1970s, pays tribute to the pair with The Hazel and Alice Sessions. It’s the perfect fit of interpreter and inspiration.
Lewis, who had collaborated with Dickens before that legends death and, more recently,with Gerrard—she produced Gerrard’s 2013 solo album Bittersweet. Lewis has a bone-deep grasp of her subjects, giving these homespun, hand-crafted tunes the juice they deserve. Gerrard guests on the sassy, matter-of-fact duet with Lewis “Working Girl Blues,” on which the pair ascend a cowboy-styled yip-and-yodel over the percussive, slashing strumming of Lewis’ Martin dreadnought. Right Hand band mates Tom Rozum and Patrick Sauber on guitars set the stage on “Let the Liar Alone,” with Rozum’s Gibson unfurling a shack-shaking chug under the coiling fingerpicked filigree of Sauber’s Martin.
Balancing the whirligig two-step “You’ll Get No More of Me,” on which Stauber’s picking snakes under keening harmonies close as a shiny straight razor, is the sighing “Mama’s Gonna Stay,” with Rozum’s silken mandolin entwining with tumbling, liquid guitar.
Culminating in the unadorned “Pretty Bird,” Lewis’ soaring a cappella duet with Linda Ronstadt, The Hazel and Alice Sessions is feisty and affectionate, cutting closer to the defiance and fun at the heart of these songs than any misplaced reverence ever could.