When the original edition of the LP Hazel and Alice was released in May of 1973, nobody involved in the project knew exactly what to expect. Hazel and Alice themselves had been singing together for about ten years, and their only other album that had been released was a Folkways effort with a heavy bluegrass feel to it. The new record, though, was not exactly bluegrass: Some of the songs came from old-time repertoires, but others were new songs by country or folk writers, and half were originals by Hazel and Alice. Rounder itself was still a “collective” with a staff or three or four, depending on the time of the year, and had been in operation for barely three years. In Washington that summer, everything was Watergate, and down in Nashville builders were working on a new Grand Ole Opry house. The Number One hit that May was Roy Clark’s “Come Live with Me,” a typical Nashville record that was like most country and bluegrass records back then—safe, well-crafted, slick, and eminently predictable. Like most commercial records, it was a well-packaged product, aimed at a specific audience, designed for a well-worn track.
Whatever anyone felt about Hazel and Alice, it was not destined to be this kind of a safe, neatly pigeon-holed effort. It was to go places where no Rounder record had gone before, to audiences no bluegrass or old-time or folk record had reached. Like the underground best-sellers college students were creating, it would find its wonderfully diverse audience by routes no Music Row sharpie could have predicted. It would appeal to the folk and bluegrass fans that already knew about Hazel and Alice, but also to the members of the growing women’s movement, the experimenters of the country rock bands, the fans of the out-spoken new Nashville songwriters and singers who were starting to come together as the “Outlaw” movement. It was an album that rode the cusp of a vital moment of time, and, like a stone thrown into a quiet lake, its ripples spread to shores far beyond.