Iris DeMent 2007
When I was growing up and things would get too much for my mother, she would run, sometimes in tears, to the upright piano crammed between her and dad's bed and the wall and pound out some old church song.
She always looked up to the sky while she was singing, like somebody was there and she was talking right to them. I wouldn't say I knew what was going on or that any of us kids did. We just knew when mom went to the piano, things were getting serious and you'd better get quiet.
When she finished singing, there was always a calmness about her. I could feel it spilling over on to me. It was a good feeling of knowing everything was going to be okay.
Born in Arkansas and raised in California, DeMent was the youngest of fourteen children in a Christian family where music soothed, teased, thrilled, and inspired. At twenty-five, she started writing songs herself and moved to Nashville, where, in 1992, she released her startlingly eloquent debut album, Infamous Angel. Country music radio was never a home to DeMent, but her country-folk songs found their way to thousands of American roots-thirsty listeners across the country and abroad by the noblest means: word of mouth.