Iris DeMent - guitar, vocals
"When I go to heaven I want to listen to Iris Dement," says MC Wavy Gravy by way of introducing the songbird at Seva's 20th anniversary event. But for the time being, this show is as close to a slice of heaven as Wavy and we are going to get, thanks to Dement and the other songwriters who've gathered to sing-out in Seva's name, coffeehouse style. And yet, it's Dement, the relative newcomer at the time, who makes it all sound so easy: Her set is among the high spots in a year filled with highpoints and bright lights to spare.
Opening with the old-timey "Sweet is the Melody," Dement dives right into her signature song, "Let the Mystery Be," taken from her early '90s debut album Infamous Angel. Already in her 30s by then, Dement was suddenly the new voice on the alt-folk scene, and her star was on the rise. She followed with another album, My Life, and found a great champion in John Prine with whom she collaborated on his 1999 album, In Spite of Ourselves.
Strumming her way through the domestic lament, "Easy's Gettin' Harder Everyday," from My Life,, Dement eases her way to her second instrument, the piano, for
"When Morning Comes Around," a ballad from her 1996 album, The Way I Should. Returning to the guitar, she brings the pensive set to a close with the Prine-like melodied "Our Town," which maps out the history of one who's loathe to give up the small town life. Call the character small-minded or just plain content, you can't say either about Dement: Her world-weary vocal style rings with hard-won wisdom and well-traveled restlessness. Perhaps that's what Wavy was thinking about when he spoke of listening to her in heaven… a place that transcends time and space and if it exists, will surely include the voice of an angel like Dement—as she sings not only for Seva but for the rest of us. But between now and then, we offer you this….