Iris DeMent's 'Sing The Delta' Full Of Paradoxes

Singer-songwriter Iris Dement draws on her upbringing in Arkansas for inspiration for her new album, Sing the Delta. It's her first release in 16 years.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Changing genres now to American singer-songwriter Iris Dement who likes to take her time. DeMent released her first album in the early 1990s, but it's been 16 years since her last album of original songs. Now, she's out with a new album titled "Sing the Delta." Reviewer Meredith Ochs says it's worth the wait.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAKIN' MY WAY BACK HOME")

IRIS DEMENT: (Singing) Making my way back home. It's been the longest time.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Iris DeMent's new CD is full of paradoxes. Raised in a Pentecostal household, the youngest of 14 kids, she draws upon faith, family and the way life was in the '60s, when she was young. It's sort of the sacred meets the mundane, and I don't mean that as an insult at all. DeMent elevates her recollections of ordinary things into sepia-toned poetry. The paradox comes in the way she juxtaposes her lyrics with her melodies. Here, she questions her faith against a fervent gospel backdrop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE KINGDOM HAS ALREADY COME")

DEMENT: (Singing) I'd go on (unintelligible) I feel these (unintelligible) the kingdom has already come. The kingdom has already come.

OCHS: Iris DeMent dedicated her new CD to her parents, and she writes a lot about them in these songs, especially her mother, who died last year at age 93. But the most striking family narrative on the album isn't really about her own. It was inspired by a true story that a friend told DeMent. The music opens with a buoyant sound, and then you suddenly realize it's about the death of a child.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NIGHT I LEARNED HOW NOT TO PRAY")

DEMENT: (Singing) When my mom saw little brother, she said, hon, you better run and get your dad. And (unintelligible). Well, he stood up by the mailbox (unintelligible) brother drive a (unintelligible). And I didn't waste no time to get down on my knee (unintelligible).

OCHS: Even though Iris DeMent admits she likes to work at her own pace when it comes to songwriting, 16 years is a long time. The songs themselves are as languorous as a hot summer afternoon, evoking DeMent's early childhood in Arkansas. But her distinct voice - richer, more expressive and more reflective than ever - pulls you along through the entire album. In an era when we demand instant gratification from everything, DeMent's new CD says a lot for taking your sweet time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SING THE DELTA")

DEMENT: (Singing) Flew here (unintelligible) passing through the day of (unintelligible) some kind of day.

BLOCK: Iris DeMent's new album is called "Sing the Delta." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a D.J. and talk show host with SiriusXM Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SING THE DELTA")

DEMENT: Of a place I used to know (unintelligible). I love you so much and you (unintelligible)

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