Iris DeMent - Biography

By J Poet

Iris DeMent amazed the world of folk music with her debut album Infamous Angel (1992 Philo/Rounder, 1993 Warrner). Her unique warbling voice and powerful songwriting struck a deep chord with listeners. The album got rave reviews from country, rock and folk critics. Album sales didn’t match her critical acclaim, but there was enough buzz to get picked up by Warner Brothers who reissued Infamous Angel and its follow up My Life (1994 Warner.) In 2002 she married underground folk star Greg Brown and in 2003 she shocked her fans when she told an almost sold out crowd in Madison Wisconsin that she would not perform again until the US pulled its troops out of Iraq.


Iris DeMent was born in 1961 in Paragould, AR, the youngest of 14 children. Her parents farmed, but her father Pat also worked in a factory to help make ends meet. He tried to unionize the factory, but failed so the family moved to Long Beach, CA, where DeMent grew up listening to Country, folk and Gospel music. The family was religious and DeMent’s early musical training came from singing in church. She moved to Kansas City to attend college didn’t start writing songs seriously until she was 25. While working as a waitress, she started signing at open mike nights and the response was overwhelmingly positive. On a trip to Nashville she met her producer, Jim Rooney, who helped her get a deal with Philo, Rounder’s singer/songwriter logo. For Infamous Angel (1992 Philo/Rounder, 1993 Warrner) Rooney lined up the best Nashville session players around, and Emmylou Harris contributed backing vocals. The songs, short simple portraits of small town life and heartbreak, were luminous, making Angel one of the strongest folk/country debuts ever released. DeMent’s concerts were love fest between performer and fans; her simple, unaffected vocals full of undeniable passion and yearning. Warner reissued Infamous Angel in 1993 as well as her second album My Life (1994 Warner.) My Life was even deeper, stronger and more polished than her debut, and while the album only sold moderately, the rave reviews continued to accumulate. In 1996 she released The Way I Should, and did not record again until 2004, when she released Lifeline. Another 8 year absence until she released  Sing The Delta in 2012.

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