lyrics they are! Though made to match the simple structures, in some passages they read like poetry.
DeMent's new album, Sing the Delta, is her first of original material in sixteen years--a notable thing in itself. In between, she issued an album of traditional hymns, which she performed at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival a few years back--after announcing that she wasn't really sure she believed in God. It was an unsatisfying contradiction, but DeMent unpacks it a bit on the new album. She has always kept her Pentecostal upbringing at arm's length while at the same time acknowledging its power, and in one of her finest songs she urged her hearers, regarding the afterlife, to "let the mystery be." This time around, she addresses religion head-on in three songs: "The Night I Learned How Not to Pray," "The Kingdom Has Already Come," and "There's a Whole Lotta Heaven," where she sings, "you can take your streets of gold if you want 'em, and your mansion so dear, but I'll take the whole lotta heaven shinin' in this river of tears."