Personnel includes: Hazel Dickens (vocals); Tommie Goldsmith, Dudley Connell (guitar, background vocals); Richard Underwood, Joe Drumright, Karl Lauber (banjo); Jerry Douglas (dobro); David McLaughlin (fiddle, background vocals); Blaine Sprouse, Eddie Stubbs (fiddle); Scott Billington (harmonica); Roy Huskey, Jr., Larry Robbins (bass).
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. ~ Zac Johnson