Iris DeMent

Live Shots

Live Shots
Photo by John Anderson

Iris DeMent

Cactus Cafe, Feb. 16

Midway through the 90-minute set of her second sold-out night at the Cactus Cafe last weekend, Iris DeMent admitted she expected to have a backing band, but that recent bad weather on the East Coast prevented them from traveling. Not that it made any difference. DeMent last appeared here in 2009, so she easily sold out Friday and Sunday night. The big news was the quintessential middle-American singer-songwriter had new songs to share, Sing the Delta having appeared late in 2012, her first originals in 16 years. Notoriously shy, DeMent semi-hid behind a grand piano most of the night. "I'd sing behind a sheet if I could," she acknowledged, but the songs, both new and old, were characteristically wrenching and cinematic. The newest material deals with family ties and growing up in the Arkansas Delta. "The Night I Learned How Not to Pray" stood out for its straightforward yet harrowing recollection of a younger brother's death. She dedicated "Makin' My Way Back Home" to Tammy Wynette, DeMent having adopted the country diva as a kindred spirit. There was also a story of her mom being upset with Merle Haggard when he changed the words to one of Iris' songs while recording it. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," she shrugged. DeMent picked up her guitar for the last two songs of the set, ending with a sweetly rendered version of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone." Her shrill vocals might still be an acquired taste, but DeMent's bittersweet melodies remain something to treasure.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Jim Caligiuri
Carrie Elkin’s Life-and-Death Folk
Carrie Elkin’s Life-and-Death Folk
Her father's death and daughter's birth upped the stakes of the singer's finest work

April 14, 2017

SXSW Music Live: Richard Barone Presents Greenwich Village in the Sixties
SXSW Music Live: Richard Barone Presents Greenwich Village in the Sixties
Soft Boys, Youngbloods, Moby Grape, Brian Jones’ grandson, etc.

March 18, 2017


Iris DeMent

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle