Sound Advice: Iris DeMent with Sam Baker (May 4)

Celebrated Americana singer/songwriter returns to Cincinnati for a performance at Memorial Hall

click to enlarge Irish DeMent - Photo: Pieta Brown
Photo: Pieta Brown
Irish DeMent
In critics’ parlance, Iris DeMent is a “songwriter’s songwriter,” which simply means that other renowned and respected songwriters hold her work in the highest esteem. That was clearly evidenced on DeMent’s debut album, 1992’s Infamous Angel, when one of Folk’s most celebrated purveyors, John Prine, provided pithy and glowing liner notes for the newcomer. That kindness sparked a long professional and personal friendship; DeMent and Prine have since worked together many times, including multiple collaborations on Prine’s two duets albums.

Prine isn’t the only fan of DeMent’s pure, plaintive and vulnerable Folk/Country vocal style. She has provided harmonies and served as a duet partner for marquee artists like Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Tom Paxton, Delbert McClinton, Nanci Griffith and many others.

DeMent’s 1994 sophomore album My Life continued Infamous Angel’s introspective songwriting arc; dedicated to her father who had passed away two years earlier, the record earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Her third album, 1996’s The Way I Should, found DeMent writing from a political and social perspective, covering topics like the Vietnam War, government failings, religion and sexual abuse.

After focusing on raising the daughter she and her husband, singer/songwriter Greg Brown, adopted in 2005, DeMent returned in 2012 with Sing the Delta, her first album of original material in 16 years. For DeMent’s 2015 album The Trackless Woods, she set to music lyrics drawn from the translated works of renowned Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. Last year, DeMent received the Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association, and this year she’s on the road, not to promote anything new but presumably because she feels like it. Maybe she’ll hit the studio soon, or it could be another eight-year wait; that’s how a trailblazer rolls.

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