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January 25, 1996 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-01-25

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68 - The Michigan Daily - tLd te., - - Thursday, January 25, 1996

.. . .. . .. . .. . ...

I .
' F

Folk singer Iris DeMent's songs
are deceptively plain -not simple
DEM ENT a Cadillac. I was about seventh grade, volved in the music business. It made
and bells started going off in my head. me a little claustrophobic."
Continued from Page 1B I know that Jesus didn't drive around After securing a recording contrac
in a nice car. Of course, they all try to with Philo/Rounder, DeMent le
ing and songwriting have not. Her rationalize that away. But it's a fact, Nashville for good. "The reason I
songs are plain, but not simple; her whether Pat Robertson wants to talk went there was I wanted to make
most straightforward lyrics evoke about it or not, that the Christians of records and I wanted to.find someone
thought, laughter or tears - and today do not much resemble the per- that would help me do that. Once I
sometimes all of them together. son they claim to be patterning them- found somebody willing to do that, I
Though her melodies are spare (her selves after," DeMent asserted. "As decided to come home to Kansas City,
tunes rarely containing more than much as I loved being part of the which is where my boyfriend (now
three chords), DeMent's country- church ... Ildidn't believe all the things her husband) was."
tinged folk songs need no ornamen- they were telling me." DeMent released "Infamous An-
tation to thoroughly charm the lis- DeMent neatly summed up her at- gel" on Philo/Rounder in February
tener - her strong, clear, angelic titude towardreligion in "Let the Mys- 1992. Warner Bros. soon approache
soprano takes care of that, and then tery Be," the sweet, mid-tempo coun- DeMent with a new contract, re-re-
some. try song on "Infamous Angel" cov- leasing "Infamous Angel" the next
Her vocal style- threeparts gentle ered by Natalie Merchant at the 1992 year and distributing it nationwide.,
folkiness and one part pure twang - MTV Inaugural Ball: Almost immediately, letters from ap-
reveals a childhood spent singing "Some say they're goin' to a place preciative fans began arriving, inW
along to Loretta Lynn and Carter called Glory/and I ain't sayin' it ain't DeMent's mailbox. No one was more
Family gospel records. a fact/But I heard that I'm on the road surprised than the singer herself.
DeMent, though, said her stron- to purgatory/and I don't like the sound "The weirdest thing ...was to have
gest influence was also her earliest. somebody from clear across the coun
"My mother sang everywhere. She « try that you've never met writing yo
sang in church, she sang around the When my muSic a letter about your song, and what*
house, she sang outside of the house, said to them and what it did for them,
out in the backyard. came me, and and meant to them. Thatwas when the
"Her eyes, how they sparkled when wtshock started hitting me.
she sang those songs/While she was "These things, that I'd created in
hangin' the clothes on the line I was writinga singing my house, with nobody abound, can
akidjusthummin' along... I'll never actually go out and affect people clear
forget her face when she revealed to " nc know #haf around the world. That's a very satis-
me/That she dreamed about singin' u*n wEh tfying sort of experience to have,"
at "The Grand 01' Opry," DeMent was what I was DeMent said.
wrote on "Mama's Opry" (off "An- "My Life," another collection of
gel"). supposed today deeply personal, unflinchingly hol
The whole DeMent family was est songs, was released in 1994t
musically inclined. "Everybody in and that was critical acclaim from every publica-
my family sang. It was just part of tion from Rolling Stone to The New
our everyday life ... We were all that, York Times, securing DeMent'splace
crammed together in, well, not a - lj D among the finest singer/songwriters
huge house, so I guess we were of her generation. DeMent's husband
close. All together, my parents had singer/songwriter retired from his job (they have no
14 kids ... I'm the last one of the children; he has two grown children
bunch." of that/I believe in love and I live my from a previous marriage), and the
The DeMents were also deeply re- life accordingly/I think I'll just let the two began to travel together.
ligious. "I grew up in Assemblies of mystery be." But her newfound fame did taker.
God.... We would go at least three Though she no longer considers her- toll on DeMent. Her father died in the
times a week, sometimes every night self "a Christian, in the strict sense," summer of 1992, just as Iris' career,
of the week," DeMent said. DeMent's songwriting reflects adeep began to soar. "No Time to Cry,"
The services, she remembered, spirituality."Thatsortofwayofthink- perhaps the most moving track on
"were very alive and very emotional. ing and looking at the world is still a "My Life," tells the story of that {ol-
The music was good, you could stomp big part of me, and by choice." lision between her old life and her
your feet, clap ... You could also After leaving her church, DeMent new career:
hear that you were going to burn in also left her family home, moving to "I stayed at home just long enough:
hell if you weren't careful." Topeka, then Kansas City. After de- to lay him in the ground/And then I
She continued, "My dad put ciding to seriously pursue a caught a plane to do a show up norti
money in the offering bag every songwriting career, DeMent relocated in Detroit town/Because I'm olde
week. We were a big family and we again, this time to that country music now, and I've got no time to cry." -
didn't have a lot of money. I al- mecca, Nashville. But Iris DeMent would have itno
ways respected that my dad felt "I liked Nashville. I was happy other way. It took her too long to find
this obligation to the church." As there. At the same time I was happy to her voice in the first place, and she's
DeMent grew older, though, she go," she admitted. "For me, I thought not about to stifle it now.
said she picked up on the church's it was a little stifling, being in a com- "When my music came to me, and
inconsistencies between what was munity where every other person - when I started writing and singing, I
preached and what was practiced. well, probably more than that - was just knew that was what I was sup-
"One day the preacher drove up in either a songwriter or a singer or in- posed to do, and that was that."
Want to write for Day Sports, but
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talented, enthusiastic and dependable new writers. If this sounds like you

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