Old Settler's Music Festival - Driftwood, Texas. Photo: Ron Baker (2007)
January 5, 1961 |
Paragould, Arkansas, United States
|Genres||Country, folk, alternative country, gospel|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano|
|Labels||Rounder Records (Philo), Warner Bros., Flariella Records|
|Associated acts||Greg Brown, John Prine|
Early life 
DeMent was born near the town of Paragould, Arkansas, the youngest child of Pat DeMent and his second wife, Flora Mae. As the baby of the family, she was Pat DeMent's 14th child, and Flora Mae's eighth.
She was raised in a Pentecostal household. Her family moved from Arkansas to the Los Angeles area when she was three. While growing up, she was exposed to and influenced by country and gospel music.
Music and career 
DeMent began writing songs at the age of 25. Her first album, Infamous Angel, was released in 1992 on the Rounder-Philo label and explored such themes as religious skepticism, small-town life, and human frailty. "Let the Mystery Be" has been covered by a number of artists, including 10,000 Maniacs and Alice Stuart, and was used in the opening scenes of the film Little Buddha. "Our Town" was played full-length during the closing scene and credits for the last episode (July 26, 1995) of the CBS TV series Northern Exposure. The song has also been recorded by Kate Rusby, Jody Stecher, and Kate Brislin.
In her second album, My Life, released in 1994, she continued the personal and introspective approach. The record is dedicated to her father, who died two years earlier. My Life was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category.
DeMent's third album, The Way I Should, was released in 1996. Featuring the protest song "Wasteland of the Free," it is DeMent's most political work. It covers topics such as sexual abuse, religion, government policy, and Vietnam.
She sang four duets with John Prine on his 1999 album In Spite of Ourselves, including the title track. She appeared in the 2000 film Songcatcher, playing the character Rose Gentry and singing on the soundtrack as well. Her duet with Ralph Stanley on "Ridin' That Midnight Train" was the opening track on his 2001 album Clinch Mountain Sweethearts: Ralph Stanley & Friends.
In 2004 she released Lifeline, an album of gospel songs. It included 12 covers and one original composition ("He Reached Down"). A shortened version of her rendition of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was later used in the closing credits of the Coen brothers' film True Grit. However, that performance is not included in the associated soundtrack audio CD.
She has also sung duets with Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris and is featured on the albums of many other performers. She sang the Merle Haggard song "Big City" on Tulare Dust: A Songwriters' Tribute to Merle Haggard. She has made frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor's radio show A Prairie Home Companion. She contributed harmony vocals to "Pallbearer," a song from country artist Josh Turner's 2012 album Punching Bag.
Personal life 
DeMent was married to Elmer McCall in 1991, but the marriage ended in divorce.
|1994||My Life||Billboard Heatseekers||16|
|1996||The Way I Should||Billboard Heatseekers||22|
|2004||Lifeline||FolkDJ-L Folk Radio Airplay||15|
|2012||Sing the Delta||Billboard 200||124|
Guest appearances 
- 2002: WYEP Live & Direct: Volume 4 - On Air Performances
Further reading 
- 1998: In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music, Nicholas Dawidoff, Vintage Books, ISBN 0-375-70082-X
- 2001: Don't Get Above Your Raisin': Country Music and the Southern Working Class, Bill C. Malone, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-02678-0
- Ziegler, Chris (August 9, 2012). "Iris DeMent: Ass-Kicking, Outlaw Country Singer Talks Growing Up in OC". OC Weekly.
- Cantwell, David (Nov-Dec 1996). "Homespun of the Brave". No Depression.
- Christgau, Robert (September 28, 1999). "Really Glad To Be Here". Village Voice.
- Cantwell, David (Nov-Dec 2004). "All that living will allow". No Depression.
- Schneider, Marc (June 28, 2012). "Iris DeMent to 'Sing the Delta,' First New Music in 16 Years". Billboard.
- Dougherty, Steve (September 27, 2012). "Church-Bred and Honky-Tonk Sanctified". The Wall Street Journal.
- Iris DeMent Homepage
- Iris DeMent at Allmusic
- Iris DeMent at Folklib.net
- Prairie Home Companion appearance on November 2, 2002