- Our Town – Iris DeMent (H.Q.) – YouTube
Iris Dement – vocals & guitar | Emmylou Harris – harmony vocals | Aly Bain – fiddle | Jerry Douglas – dobro | Molly Mason – bass
- Iris DeMent – Leaning On The Everlasting Arms (“True Grit” 2010 Soundtrack) – YouTube
- Iris Dement Sings in her Mama’s Opry | No Depression Americana and Roots Music 090109
Terry Roland : “The 1991 album, Infamous Angel, now a classic, has the distinction of being one of the best break-out albums released in the country-folk genre. With “Let the Mystery Be”, Iris comes off as a philosophical hillbilly mystic who’s listened the songs of A.P. Carter while waiting out some Arkansas dust storm in a hermits tavern. Filled with story songs of hometown, heartbroken love, passionate romances, repentance, redemption, and gospel homages to a hymn-singing, praying, devoted, aging mother, the themes of this album are common to any ambitious country singer-songwriter but on Mystery, these songs are executed naturally and authentically, with the feeling of someone who knows the terrain first hand. And as always, the church-gospel influence is skillfully woven through every tune. This becomes never as clear as it does on the title song “Infamous Angel,” told from the perspective of a repentant home-bound prostitute drawn from the gospel story of the prodigal son. | Her two follow up albums, My Life and The Way I Should, a bold switch to more topical and controversial songs, were solid albums to come in the aftermath of what could have been an overshadowing debut. Then, in 1996, after five years, she disappeared. No new albums, no tours. Only an occasional appearance on tribute albums, like her cover of Merle Haggard’s “Big City” on Tulare Dust or appearances on “Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.” Just enough to tease her audience. In 2000 her role in the independent film, The Songcatcher, as an Appalachian woman was a part she could wear like a dress with a perfect fit. She blended so well that it took a while to figure out that it was Iris and not a local mountain lady hired to lend authenticity to the film. | During the years following her divorce in 1994, Iris experienced what happens to many songwriters, poets, and other artists who build their art on reflecting the life around them – a period of depression. This led to a long dry spell for her songwriting and a disappearance from the public eye. She married songwriter Greg Brown in 2002 and after what can best be described as a heroic battle against the black dog of depression, she re-emerged. In 2004, she showed up with her friend and mentor, John Prine, on an album of duets, In Spite of Ourselves. The title song gave her the challenge of singing such lines as, “you ain’t been laid in a month of Sundays, I caught you once smelling my undies.” | Most important, 2004 was the year she returned to the studio for an album of southern gospel songs titled Lifeline. It is a natural extension of her spare but rich recording career, especially paying tribute to her roots and her mother, Flora Mae. At first glance, as is the case with many artists, when a new album is needed, it’s common to record either an album of covers or a gospel album. But, Lifeline is not just any gospel album. Carefully selected, not commonly covered gospel songs, Lifeline is clearly, like its title, an homage to the message of hope embedded in her spiritual journey, which is centered in the voice and songs she once heard her mother sing in her childhood. This is not just an album to fill the years between the release of songs of new material. However, most of the music industry didn’t get the title or the underlying story of Iris’ missing years. In this case, Lifeline is not just a reference to an old gospel song, but a virtual outcry from the hardship and emotional years of loss and the reach out for the lifeline of spiritual and artistic renewal. So, this often-passed-over album, generally reviewed as a four-star album, but discounted because of the lack of original material, is a return to her roots and, most important, to the voice of her mother, singing under the blue California skies of her childhood.” (originally appeared in San Diego Troubadour)
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About the Flaneur
I walk through my blindness the way I wander down streets in Paris: unfettered and alive, alert to the raw material of the senses. I am a flaneur. Come along with me. Just don’t try to take my arm, unless I ask. What’s a flaneur? Read the first post, Return of the Flaneur to Galerie Vivienne. After that, try Foot Rage and the Blind Flaneur. Then stay tuned.
Letting Go of Sight
I’ve canoed on Lake Superior for almost as many years as I’ve been losing eyesight. I return year after year like a migrating loon to learn the other side of a slow, uncertain process that we could call “going blind.” After 35 years with the lake as my teacher, I know what lies on the other side. I call it letting go of sight. Read Big Water. See more about the Great Lakes.
Not This PigIf there is an emerging genetic underclass, I could run for class president or class clown. Read more in Not This Pig (2003).
Media in Transition @ MiT
Disabled Americans today have to negotiate for the kinds of accommodations made for FDR, and the caveat “reasonable accommodation” is built into the law. President Franklin Roosevelt did not have to negotiate. He could summon vast resources of the federal government – money as well as brains – to accomplish the work of disability. And it was accomplished with such thoroughness and efficiency that its scale could be called the Accessibility-Industrial Complex had it been directed toward public accommodations and not solely the needs of a single man. Read FDR and the Hidden Work of Disability [MiT8 2013]
Shepard Fairey claimed that his posterization of a copyrighted AP news photo of Barack Obama was a transformative work protected by the fair use doctrine. In other words, it was a shape-shifter. I claim fair use, too, when I reproduce and transform copyrighted works into media formats that are accessible to me as a blind reader. Read Shape-Shifters in the Fair Use Lab [MiT6 2009]
The social engineers who created a system for licensing beggars in New York never imagined that a blind woman had culture or could make culture. She herself may not have imagined it, either. In the moment when Paul Strand photographed her surreptitiously on the street in 1916, he could not have expected that one day blind photographers would reverse the camera’s gaze. Read Curiosity & The Blind Photographer. [MiT5 2007]