Iris Dement

REVIEW: Iris Dement “Workin’ On A World”


Iris DeMent – Workin’ On A World

Well, Iris DeMent doesn’t waste time pouring a delightfully melodic tune (“Workin’ On a World”) into a listener’s ear with this new effort. Effort? 6-years in the making & it still sounds like Iris just did what came naturally & genuinely to her. Some unaccustomed to Iris’ voice will find it quirky with all its harmony & grits — but I find it authentically Americana. A lived-in voice, an experienced one, no frills, no showboating mannerisms just unvarnished.

Iris is a delight on each song – always. I remember the first time I heard her in a wonderful film (“Songcatcher”) about a female musicologist who tries to document traditional music in 1907 Appalachia. Iris (as Rose Gentry) comes out on her porch to sing a song her ancestors passed down. She was so authentic.

Her voice couldn’t have been closer to the real thing. Antique, dusty & though it projected a tint of amateur, its spiritual tone gave a cherished musical memory. Worth a look — if you like the story of the historic development of America’s roots music long before it was called folk, country & western, or Americana. The film also features Taj Mahal, Hazel Dickens & Bobby McMillon.

I’ve listened to Iris’ 13 new tunes several times to get a feel for her direction on Workin’ On A World – (Drops Feb 24-Flariella Records) & all are jewels. Tough to pick a favorite. Some are tougher than others. All charming – as the lullaby-like “Say a Good Word.”

The 63-minute CD explores some heady topics & the performances are intense (“Let Me Be Your Jesus”). Sung in a creepy intense narrative manner similar to Clear Light’s dramatic cover of Tom Paxton’s “Mr. Blue.”

Iris Dement

Produced by Iris (vocals/piano/harmony) with Richard Bennett (guitar/electric 6-12 string guitars/acoustic high string tic tac bass guitar), Pieta Brown (harmony) & Jim Rooney. The CD has a 12-page stitched lyrical insert.

The songs miraculously have melodies that blend into each other & are individually memorable. This is a labor of love from Iris & her musicians. It’s roots music that embraces all its genres competently – country, hymns, folk, ballads & traditional. Shaped by the pure originality of an artist who understands this archeology.


Beautiful stuff. John Prine would be proud.

Musicians – Recorded in Nashville with guest Marty Stuart (mandolin on “Walkin’ Daddy”). Chris Donohue (bass), Bryan Owings (percussion), Jim Hoke (sax), Roland Barber (trombone), John Fumo (trumpet/flugelhorn), John Graboff (pedal steel), Brad Jones (B3 organ), Mark Howard (guitar/mandolin) & Phil Madeira (Wurlitzer).

Highlights – “Workin’ On a World,” “Goin’ Down To Sing In Texas,” “Say a Good Word,” “The Sacred Now,” “I Won’t Ask You Why,” “Let Me Be Your Jesus,” “How Long,” the primitive Greg Brown rocker “Walkin’ Daddy.”

Color image courtesy of Iris’ website. CD @

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