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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : DeMent Shines in Solos of Loneliness

October 10, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN

Introducing her cheerfully agnostic anthem "Let the Mystery Be," Iris DeMent made note on Friday at the Troubadour that she almost hadn't recorded her most famous tune for fear of upsetting her Pentecostal mother.

After singing it, she added, "Turns out she likes that song. I don't know if she's ever listened to the words; she's always wonderin' where the fast, happy ones are, and that falls into that category."

In fact, the country-folk singer is every bit as gifted at writing the fast, happy ones as the unrepentant heart-tuggers for which she probably enjoys the greater esteem. And she sets the agnosticism aside long enough to make wondrous forays into pure, exultant gospel.

Great as DeMent's two instrumentally understated albums are, she's even finer solo, unadorned but for guitar or piano (and a guest accordion on three tunes here), with no comforting dobro to distract from her unassumingly stunning writing and the winsome, anachronistic authority of her 78-speed warble.

Like Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale and John Prine before her, DeMent made the speed of the sound of loneliness seem to proceed on hauntingly slow Midwest, not West Hollywood, time.

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