Music » Critics' Picks

Iris DeMent

Thursday, June 19; Sheldon Concert Hall

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There is a secret place of innocence and truth in this country, a place where a nameless dirt road reaches past a simple homestead into the ever-distant horizon and a warm breeze spirits the lilting sweetness of honeysuckle sunlight shining softly from nowhere. Long grasses sway verdantly in shimmering waves on buxom hills under a perfect blue heaven, and the ringing of a faraway church bell cradles the soul with absolution. It's a place where every hope engendered by the American dream is surpassed, where we learn that we've been chasing the wrong dream all along and that we're finally home.

Iris DeMent hasn't merely been to this Elysian prairie; she was born there, and the flawless diamond that is her voice brings all the pristine beauty of an unmarred heartland straight to the ears. Since the 1992 release of her Infamous Angel full-length, she's continually demonstrated the power of simplicity in her approach to songwriting, creating poignant country-folk that leaves you feeling somehow more alive (if a little sad). When lyrics of such direct potency are propelled by a voice like DeMent's, there's a wonderful symbiosis that occurs between song and singer, each lifting the other to heights otherwise unattainable. She vocalizes with all the honesty of a child in a voice that couldn't possibly be more open, physically or emotionally. It's a powerful instrument on a few levels, and fans of great singing would do well to experience its precision and crystalline density firsthand.

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