45 choice albums for stuffing stockings

By Walter Tunis



Iris Dement, Lifeline. Though it would be nice to hear some new originals, DeMent stirs a spiritual storm on these old-timey standards. Also: Clive Palmer, All Roads Lead to Land; Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian Waltz Trio, Crossing Bridges.

Full article HERE



From The Calgary Sun;

LIFELINE — Iris Dement     (Rated 4 out of 5 stars)
DeMenty fresh

Iris DeMent was born in 1961, but you could be forgiven for thinking her breathtaking new album is a recently uncovered classic from the ’30s or ’40s.

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or view a PDF here  if the link is expired.


Iris DeMent
(Flariella ****)

Iris DeMent begins her first album in eight years by declaring, “I’ve Got That Old-Time Religion in My Heart.” The country-folk singer goes on to prove it on the rest of this supremely moving set of gospel standards and one gospel original.

DeMent alternates up-tempo, small-acoustic-combo sing-alongs with more stately, hymnlike numbers that feature her on piano. Singing them all in her industrial-strength twang, she exudes quiet grace and dignity while conveying the feeling that these songs of faith have indeed been a lifeline for her through some tough times. These performances whet the appetite for more original material from this gifted singer-songwriter.

– Nick Cristiano



Your webmaster’s review posted to

Iris deserves accolades for this CD.  This album of gospel songs is
definitely worth buying and definitely worth finding some time to sit down
and pay attention to.  The one quality that struck me about this CD is the
feeling that it’s Iris sitting next to you on a couch in the living room,
just playing and enjoying music together. It has a warm, personal feel to
it. The production is much like anyone who has attended her concerts
expects.  It’s Iris, her instruments, and her beautiful voice.  There are a
couple of “flat” songs on this CD, but the wonderful songs truly outshine
those less shining moments.  I haven’t really picked a favorite at this
time, but tracks 1, 9, 10, 11, and 12 are all wonderful examples of Iris
at her best.  The one song that I think has gotten my attention the most
is, “Near The Cross”.  I’ve heard this song many times, from places so
varied as inside a church, on an album, and in my own home sitting with
family and friends in an impromptu “living room concert” like I mentioned
before.  This has to be the most unique and emotionally touching version I
have ever heard. I’ve listened to it repeatedly; trying to determine what
ethereal quality it is that makes it grab the attention of my soul.  It
literally made tears well up in my eyes.  It is not the best song to
illustrate the clarity, range or beauty of Iris’ voice, but it is
especially filled with the beauty of heart-felt emotion.  If a new listener
were looking for examples of Iris’ voice at it’s best, I would probably
steer them to “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion In My Heart”, “I Never Shall
Forget the Day”, or to “I Don’t Want To Get Adjusted”.  I also especially
like that Iris has written “He Reached Down” for this album.  Longtime fans
will know of Iris’ struggle with organized religion; which makes this song
(and album) seem to be a statement by Iris that she does not deny that her
moral and ethical makeup are at least based on her religious
upbringing.  It also shows that gospel music (and music in general) has a
certain soul soothing quality and a meaning to even those who question
their religion.  I was somewhat disappointed not to see “Momma Told Her
Truth” on this album, but I imagine someone made the decision that the song
was not quite enough gospel to fit in with the songs on “Lifeline”.  That’s
ok, because now I expect to see it on her next album of original songs,
along with her love ode to husband Greg Brown, “This Love’s Gonna
Last.”    Lifeline is definitely a must buy for any Iris fan.



From The Village Voice, consumer guide, honorable

Iris Dement

Her heart cherishes Jesus’ memory, but her mind,
voice, and soul remain her own (“He Reached Down,”
“I’ve Got That Old Time Religion in My Heart”).


From the Washington Post

‘Lifeline’: Iris DeMent’s Sweet Salvation
By Joe Heim

Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 3, 2004; Page C05

Some people turn to comfort food for solace. Iris DeMent turns to comfort
songs. At least she has on “Lifeline,” her first album in eight years and
one that finds her revisiting the church music of her youth in rural
Arkansas and California as a form of therapy and perhaps even salvation.

“A few years ago, just before I started making this record, the hard times
came in for a long visit and about the only thing that helped was sitting at
the piano singing these songs to myself,” DeMent writes in the album’s liner
notes. There’s a real spareness, an emotional nakedness to this recording
that makes it easy to imagine the 43-year-old singer-songwriter sitting
alone, despairing and playing the songs as a search for some kind of peace.

Though DeMent has written just one of the songs on the record, her choices
for covers are revealing. All deal with the same basic theme: the desire to
be delivered from sorrow and suffering. And her telltale twangy voice —
which sometimes seems to have arrived unblemished from Civil War-era
America — is a startlingly primitive and beautiful conduit for these 13
spiritual plaints.

DeMent also writes that, for her, these songs are not about religion, but
something bigger than that. By turns bouncily uplifting and quietly
meditative, these songs were obviously selected as powerful salve for
whatever darkness had enveloped her. By any measure, though, they are
certainly religious songs, most with an old-time feel and some dating back
as far as the mid-19th century.

Several of these Sunday-morning songs are fairly well known. “I’ve Got That
Old Time Religion in My Heart,” “Blessed Assurance” and “The Old Gospel
Ship” have become part of the fabric of American music history, appealing to
secular and non-secular music fans alike. Others are a bit less familiar,
like “God Walks the Dark Hills” and “Hide Thou Me.”

What all of the songs share, though, is the feel of intensely personal
dialogue. DeMent’s voice is pleading as she reaches out to a higher power,
whatever she understands that to be. In the song that she wrote, “He Reached
Down,” the expression of faith invokes Jesus’s parables. It is a statement
of faith for those who have reached rock bottom: “He reached down, He
reached down, He got right there on the ground, He reached down, He reached
down and touched the pain.”

Religious and old-time gospel songs have always informed DeMent’s music,
even on her earlier albums when she was singing songs about her home town or
war or passion. Here, though, they are the central focus. And in them she
has found the refuge and relief she so desperately sought. It’s not a
stretch to imagine that she hopes the songs might provide the same for


From All Music Guide:

Review by Thom Jurek On the surface, Lifeline, Iris Dement’s return to recording after an eight-year hiatus, is a collection of age-old gospel and church tunes from the 19th century — or earlier — in the grand Protestant tradition. He liner notes tell a different story. She recounts how her mother played and sang these songs in times of stress looking straight at the sky, “as if she were talking to someone.” She claims that for her, too, the music contained here became her lifeline through a season of hardship, and that when calling her mother from the road in difficult straits, she was told to get to a piano. Dement’s raw, high lonesome voice is as out of time as the material, though these presentations are not exactly rough-hewn. They are plaintive but polished with accompaniment from a host of players, including Bo Ramsey, Mark Howard, Stu Basore, Stuart Duncan, and others. Dement plays piano on some tracks, guitar on others. For Dement they may indeed represent places of comfort in the midst of despair and desolation, yet for the casual observer, they feel like simply-rendered, distinguished readings of familiar spirituals. Dement goes out of her way to distance herself from the religion spoken of in these pieces, saying in her notes that the songs represent something bigger than that to her, but to the listener they come off as reverent and quaint, hardly the stuff of earthshaking experience. It is only on “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” where Dement accompanies herself on piano, that the notion of shelter from the storm comes through brilliantly and unmistakably. There is one new song here, an original called “He Reached Down” recorded with Ramsey, that reaches the heights of Infamous Angel or “My Life.” The narrative, though biblical, is saturated in Dement’s singular storytelling manner, where her voice reaches into the grain of the material and pulls at its mystery until its emotion and truth become unfettered and fall free. While this is far from a full return to form for Dement, it is truly good to have her back.



November 2, 2004

It’s Tuesday again – the day when the music industry
puts out new CDs on the shelves. After you head to the
polls today to vote, drop by the music store.

Iris DeMent , “Lifeline”
The country-folk singer’s first album in eight years,
released on her own Flariella Records label, features
a dozen gospel standards plus one DeMent original. Her
voice is as rich and striking as ever. Iowa City
guitarist Bo Ramsey contributes his talents.


(Rated on a scale of no stars, skip the vote, to five
stars, rock the vote.)



Last updated: December 05, 2004