Elsewhere DeMent sings of parents, a flower, the comforts of home. Such venerable themes also formed the center of her earlier music, but now there's a new concreteness and depth to the imagery. "Before the Colors Fade" depicts, in homely but hard-to-shake language, the act of remembering and thinking about someone who has recently died. The album's title track ("Sing the Delta ... a love song for me") is a hymn to DeMent's birthplace--Paragould, Arkansas, "where my people on both sides going back eked out a livin' fillin' cotton sacks." More than previously, DeMent aims this time for big themes, albeit in small things, and timeless words. "Go on ahead and go home," she sings on the album's gospel-tinged opening song. "Boy, you've done your best, time you took your rest in the sheltering loam."
DeMent has always been more of a critical than a popular favorite. Her voice is almost an exaggeration of a traditional Southern ballad style, which she refuses to sweeten in any way. It's an acquired taste, but it, too, forces you through to the remarkable lyrics, which repay close attention and aren't like anything else out there.
Iris DeMent makes her first appearance at the Ark in many years on November 17.
[Originally published in November, 2012.]