Iris DeMent, ‘Sing the Delta’

The songs on “Sing the Delta” took a long time to make their way to Iris DeMent; she released her last album of original material 16 years ago. Her patience has rewarded us with a work of rare, unvarnished grace and power. “Sing the Delta” finds her, still, writing plainspoken, fiercely honest, deeply considered songs about matters of faith and questioning (“The Night I Learned How Not to Pray”), loss and remembering (“Before the Colors Fade”), simple beauty (“Mornin’ Glory”), and, especially, family and the ties family produces to place and the past (“Sing the Delta”). Those explorations are conveyed by a persistent gospel tenor and by her remarkable, thick twang, which quavers, thins, stretches, and soars in a manner that cuts to the emotional heart of the matter. In the album’s most explicitly autobiographical song, DeMent pays tribute to her mother: “When it came to her feelins there wasn’t a back burner on that stove,” she sings; “My mama was always tellin’ her truth.” On “Sing the Delta,” DeMent tells — sings, to our great fortune — her truth. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Sing the Delta”

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