Roots-music fans of a certain stripe fetishize authenticity. So they love Hazel Dickens, a West Virginia coal-country gal who came to the big city (well, Baltimore) at age 16 not to make it in the music biz but to work in a factory. That accent is real, not copped from old Carter Family records. She comes by her eclectic mix of traditional Appalachian ballads, gospel, bluegrass, and classic country honestly, too: Daddy played the banjo ’til he got religion, she sang publicly from an early age, and her whole family gathered for the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday. And her empathy? Her pro-labor politics? Her unsentimental feminism? Hard living, factory work, and—well, hard living. And no amount of self-invention could have created Dickens’ high, clear voice, tinged with the pain of her lyrics, tied up in verse the way only a true folksinger’s can be. “It’s Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song” is the name of a Dickens track, one of her albums, and, most aptly, the film about her life. There’s no reason not to love Bob Dylan or Gillian Welch, but there’s also no reason not to catch Dickens when she performs in a concert celebrating her designation as a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. Free. (202) 682-5678. (Caroline Schweiter)