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Basic Folk: Folklore Forensics With Alice Gerrard

Oct 19, 2023

Basic Folk: Folklore Forensics With Alice Gerrard

Bluegrass hero and former weird kid Alice Gerrard strongly believes that traditional music is connected to everyday life. She has said: “When you listen to traditional music you have such a sense of this connectedness of this person’s life. It comes out of the earth.” She was first exposed to folk music while attending Antioch College. Jeremy Foster (her boyfriend at the time, who would become her first husband) introduced her to The Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music. Upon listening, she became hooked and more drawn to lonesome and rough folk songs versus pristine vocalists. That mentality of keeping her performance untarnished and imperfect has followed her ever since.


After she and Jeremy moved to Washington D.C., she became acquainted with Hazel Dickens. She considered Hazel a mentor figure and studied her musicality. The two would record four albums together as the seminal duo Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. The two did not speak for many years after they split in the late ’70s. The breakup was messy and hard for both, particularly Hazel. Years later, they reconciled and would perform and were close until Hazel’s death in 2011. Nowadays, Alice, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, has begun digitizing her huge photo archive for a book as well as performing with younger generations of traditional musicians. People like Tatiana Hargreaves, Reed Stutz and Phil Cook are regulars on her stage. They also contribute to her new album, Sun to Sun. Alice digs in talking about her unorthodox parenting style (which is no secret), imperfectionism, appreciating memory and the fantastic new record.

Photo Credit: Libby Rodenbough

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Basic Folk: Folklore Forensics With Alice Gerrard
Basic Folk: Folklore Forensics With Alice Gerrard