Iris DeMent ‘Sing The Delta’

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#805 in the Series) is Iris DeMent, Sing the Delta 

Well, we’re into November now (already!) and to be honest I was starting to get my head around compiling my Albums Of The Year list. There are a few weeks to go but I thought we’d had all the good stuff and it was wind down time, compilations and reissues to the fore in the bid for our Christmas present cash. Then this little gem appeared like a bolt from the blue and took me over. It’s a delightful treat which has held me enthralled all week and has, naturally, caused me to rethink that list……..

I knew Iris DeMent had to be something special when I read a glowing review of her debut album, Infamous Angel, back in 1992. It was in a music paper called Melody Maker which almost never covered country music, its staple diet was rock and indie music and, back then, grunge. So for them to go out on a limb for a country/folk album by an unknown female singer, something had to be up. And by hell it was !. I bought that album the very next week and it was a revelation, a superb set of heartfelt and sparse songs, wonderful songs, by a young lady with a remarkable voice. And it also came with a recommendation from a certain chap called John Prine, you may have heard of him. Well when that guy tells you someone’s worth your time, you just better put your listening head on my friend.

She went on to put out a further two albums in the 90’s but, apart from a gospel album in 2004 (with only one original composition on it) , there’s was nothing in the way of new songs for years. I kind of lost track over the years although she did grace one of the very best duets you’ll ever hear “I’m Still In Love With You” along with it’s composer, Steve Earle.

And then, from nowhere: Sing The Delta.

Nothing much has changed really, the themes are similar: faith, hope, family, memories, love. Iris has a strong and deep, enduring love for her now deceased parents and, as she explains in the sleeve notes, she sings partly to honour their memory and to keep their spirit alive. Here, she’s made a record which, I am certain, would have had them bursting with pride, a majestic work, beautiful in its simplicity.

But don’t go  thinking  it’s maudlin, far from it, it’s bursting with joy, happiness and a love of life. The kind of album that just makes you feel all warm and happy when you listen to it. And don’t we all need more of that ?

The songwriting is strong, highlights being “The Kingdom Has Already Come” , a lovely piano based ballad, kind of gospel feel to it but it begins with :

“I stopped in the church to pray / it was the middle of the day / and I don’t even know if I believe in God”

Title track “Sing The Delta” is absolutely a revelation,  one of the finest songs I’ve heard in years, I can feel a Grammy nomination coming on !

“Mama Was Always Telling Her Truth” is, as you’d expect, a lovely tribute. It reminds me of one of those fantastic songs by Kate & Anna McGarrigle, one from their classic debut album maybe ?

That’s just a brief review of some stand-outs, the whole thing is strong throughout, no weak links really.

And that voice of hers……….

It’s always been a thing of wonder but I think she’s singing even better now than before. Strong , warm and melodic you could just listen to Iris for hours, lost in her deep and soulful delivery.

Iris DeMent was born in Arkansas, as was Johnny Cash. Now, he used to talk about redemption a lot and also about the redemptive qualities that music, at its most powerful, could deliver. That’s one of the reasons he loved to play for Native Americans and prisoners, he believed that music had a healing power that could lift the spirits, soothe the soul and help bring people together. Well, I get all of that, and more, when I listen to Sing The Delta, a wonderful release, as timeless in its own way as much of Johnny’s work.

And there you have it, a late contender for the Album Of The Year list and a heartfelt, stripped down musical delight, sung by a lady with one of the most graceful and perfect voices you could ever hope to hear.

— Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

Track Listing

  1. Go Ahead And Go Home
  2. Before The Colors Fade
  3. The Kingdom Has Already Come
  4. The Night I Learned How Not To Pray
  5. Sing The Delta
  6. If That Ain’t Love
  7. Livin’ On The Inside
  8. Makin’ My Way Back Home
  9. Mornin’ Glory
  10. There’s A Whole Lotta Heaven
  11. Mama Was Always Tellin’ Her Truth
  12. Out Of The Fire


  • Iris DeMent – Guitar, Piano, Vocals
  • Richard Bennett – Bazouki, Guitar
  • Jen Gunderman – Accordion
  • Steve Herman – Trumpet
  • Jim Hoke – Sax
  • Byron House – Bass
  • Dave Jacques – Bass
  • Bryan Owings –  Drums, Percussion
  • Brad Pemberton – Drums
  • Al Perkins –  National Steel Guitar, Pedal Steel
  • Bo Ramsey –  Guitar
  • Reese Wynans – Hammond B3
Listen to a couple tracks off of Sing the Delta
You may enjoy these albums as well

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Posted by Larry Carta

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