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Iris Dement is not the most prolific of recording artistes and this collection of original songs is her first album since 2004 and only her fifth release in 20 years.

Iris shares with Lucinda Williams an aching quality to her voice that enables her to deliver the bittersweet sentiments of her songs with such passion and emotion. She writes about those things that, like many of us, we carry as memories throughout our lives: her mother, her father, her brothers and sisters, her childhood and sorrow, love and grief.

The songs are led by her own piano accompaniment which somehow gives the album the feel of belonging to a different age - the blend of old timey country and gospel, or perhaps it's because her songs express sentiments that are no longer fashionable.

The wistful, melancholy lyrics of each song are underpinned by that haunting piano and some glorious but understated Hammond B3, tenor sax, trumpet, bass, 12 string guitar and a National steel guitar. The band is never intrusive but delicately echoes the beauty of the melodies and the tender readings of her poetry.

She recalls her mother in "Before The Colours Fade":

"Before the colours fade from view
I sit alone remembering you
And all those things you'd say and do.
And the feel of being next to you
The angles of your sweet old face
The voice that filled my life with grace
I walk as through a sacred place
Before the colours fade"

with piano and National steel playing an accompaniment of such subtle beauty.

"Morning Glory" has the verse:

"Mornin' Glory, fuschia in green
You sweet little Jezebel in my garden of dreams.
Petals clenched tightly in the late morning sun
My day is just starting, your day is done.

Performed with just a simple piano accompaniment this beautiful song typifies a glorious album
of maturity, intelligence and beauty.
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Iris DeMent has waited sixteen years to deliver this precious gift of
an album. Her bitter-sweet voice graces these twelve new compositions
like a long-lost friend; a voice both in and out of time telling it how
it is with pathos and the kind of fragile grace which will tangle up
your heart in a ball of knots if you'll just let it in to find a home.

That Ms DeMent understands the true nature of the blues (even though her
soul is clearly rooted deep in country soil) is self-evident in these seasoned
performances. Her grasp of the traditions of her chosen genre are effortlessly
displayed in the beautiful melodies and uncluttered and refined arrangements.
Her supporting cast of players recognises how best to accompany her with both
sympathy and consummate instrumental skill. Music to make you feel warm inside.

Top tracks would have to include 'Before The Colors Fade', a beautifully
crafted composition full of love and restrained emotion; a box full of fond
and deeply personal memories about the artist's Mother. A sublime invention.
So too title track 'Sing The Delta' with its elegant sweeping and swooping
vocal line, warm brass and gently lilting rhythm. Of the up-tempo numbers
'The Night I Learned How Not To Pray' and 'There's A Whole Lotta Heaven'
lift our spirits (especially the latter with its fruity Hammond organ
decorations) but for my money the melancholy final track 'Out Of The Fire'
saves the best til last. A song to rank with the loveliest we'll hear this year.

Sometimes the simplest things bring the greatest joys.

Highly Recommended.
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A new album from Iris Dement is a must-have for anyone who still finds that songs from her earlier Infamous Angel ringing around there heads. In Sing the Delta, that mournful, totally distinctive Dement voice sings on - the essence of small-town 1950s America where poor families struggle to make ends meet, tragedies happen to those who are already living desparate lives and prayers are said (but with not much hope of them being answered).

This album presents a very smooth Iris - most of the songs are slow, sad creations and Iris's voice seems to be the very essence of sorrow. The final track, Out of the Fire, is a seven minute classic Dement song, an evocation of gravel roads where grandpa lived with his rusted-out car, a little girl sitting on the seat next to her Mom as they drive home through the back-roads.

One or two of the tracks are a little thin - when she gets a good line she sometimes repeats it rather too often - for example, "there's a Whole lot of heaven shining in this river of tears" gets drummed into your head over and over again and begins to lose its novelty. Generally there is no one song to equal Our Town on Infamous Angel (which has become staple fair for amateur country-folk bands up and down the country). These songs are good, but don't quite have that something extra which will make everyone want to sing them.

In Mama Was Always Telling Her Truth we hear of Iris's mother who had a hard life in rural Arkansas but spoke her mind on every occasion -

"I was sitting in church I was right there beside her
Mama would move as the spirit would guide her
Waving her hands up to heaven singing her tune
If the preacher said something and she didn't like it
Heaven gonna shake, and she just wouldn't fight it
That was momma and she just told her truth"

Iris seems to have picked up her mother's free thinking ways: unusually for an album which will sell in vast quantities to middle-America, Iris likes singing about her religous doubts. In The Kingdom has Already Come, Iris tells us that she doesn't even know if she believes in God because heaven is found in the relationships you have on earth. In The Night I Learned How Not To Pray, her baby brother tumbles down the stairs and cracks his head open. She prayed until the evening, that God would make it right, but that night, Iris learned that "God does what he wants to anyway".

I was tempted to give this album four stars because it's a little samey throughout. The tracks all seem to merge into one another, with similar backing and that lonely, quirky, sorrowful voice soaring above what could be seen as a slightly bland backing band. I would have preferred there to be a little more stand-out instrumental work - the musicians are very fine but they concentrate on supporting Iris rather than doing anything particularly memorable themselves. The horns sound very smooth particularly on the title track Sing the Delta. Occasional Hammond-style keyboard provides just that perfect 1960s feel to tracks like There's a Whole Lot of Heaven. But the guitarists are restricted to the occasional linking phrase - there is no evidence of the sort of amazing instrumental work as appears on Sarah Jarosz's album Follow Me Down where Jerry Douglas's dobro provides such masterly backing.

Having said that, I've given it five because Sing the Delta is definitely a land-mark album with very high production values, tons of classic Dement vocals and also fantastic value for money with at least four of its dozen tracks being over five minutes long.
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on 22 January 2013
Sing the Delta is Iris Dement at her best. The wait for a new CD is worth it when you put it on and loose yourself in the tracks. I was lucky to see her in Bristol UK a few years ago, just wonderful. Highly recommended. Wonderful , beautifully song such a talented song writer. Sandra Duck Bristol UK
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on 4 May 2013
I loved this album but with reservations over the sound production.
I would love to know why the producer made Iris's vocals slightly indistinct on this album. In previous output her unique voice had depth while this lacks it, lurching towards a tinney, thin singing voice.
Once again her lyrics are top notch and engaging. it is so clear and so evident about her background that gives emphasis to her songs.
There is one great track which I believe I should leave to the listener to make they're opinion about but even Van the man would be hard put to match the blues tone and skill of the singer and the musicians.
If the flawed singing production values had been as before, why tamper with something so unique. I ould have scored it 5 stars.
Be patient with this one, give it at least four- five complete plays and grow to love it as I did
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on 13 February 2013
Raw, basic, down-home Americana/American Folk. No make-up on the photo of Iris on the cover is an indication of how the music will be. I loved this album at first playing and it grows on you with its back-to-roots feel. You can sense the heat and humidity.
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on 14 December 2012
A gem of an album . Sounds as if the song were written weeks after Infamous Angel which was released in 1992. Give your heart and soul a treat buy this and be insptred and uplifted by a real country star.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2013
I normally love Iris' albums but this one was a little disappointing. About half of the songs are great but others are only average. The style is a return to her roots and the songs seem a little bit samey. Her voice is as good as ever and the recording is fine so everything sounds as it should when you listen. But the magic of Infamous Angel and songs like My Town are largely missing here.
It has grown on me over time so maybe eventually I'll rate it higher but after 2 weeks of listening I'm definitely disappointed. Although its good to have a new release after such a long wait I'm wondering if it would have been worth waiting a little bit longer for an even stronger set.
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on 22 January 2013
My wife love's Iris Dement from years ago. She's new to me but what a great voice, must be one of the best albums of 2012
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VINE VOICEon 13 October 2012
Even though it's an album of original songs - some of the songs sound incredibly similar but I can't place them. For example "livin' on the inside" has a chord progression and melody that I am convinced is from another well known song. The chorus "I don't want to know about nothing, unless it's something I can see or touch" - I KNOW that melody/lyrics but from what song?

'Before The Colors fade' sound like a mix of 'Everybody Hurts' by REM and the classic 'I'm so lonesome I could cry' blended.

There are several other examples.

Anyway, it's a superb album. Iris has a voice like no other. She seems to sound crisper and more vocally impressive with every year that passes.

Authentic old time folk and country straight from the front porch of small town America.
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