Pasa Re­views

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER - — Jen­nifer Levin

Singer Iris De­Ment; Santa Fe Sym­phony

Iris De­Ment

James A. Lit­tle The­ater, Jan. 15

For her sixth al­bum, The Track­less Woods (2015), Iris De­Ment set po­ems by the late Rus­sian writer Anna Akhma­tova to the same haunt­ing yet rol­lick­ing coun­try-gospel-in­spired mu­sic she’s be­come known for since the re­lease of In­fa­mous An­gel in 1992. At a con­cert on Jan. 15 at the James A. Lit­tle The­ater, De­Ment ex­plained that af­ter she and her hus­band, singer Greg Brown, adopted their daugh­ter from Siberia a decade ago, a well-mean­ing friend lent her a book of Akhma­tova’s po­etry. Though it took De­Ment two years to look at the book, once she fi­nally did, she was so enchanted that she turned sev­eral of the po­ems into songs, and “Where I’m from, 10 of any­thing makes an al­bum,” she told the rapt au­di­ence.

De­Ment played pi­ano and sang alone on stage for more than an hour, joined for two songs at the end by her step­daugh­ter, singer-song­writer Pi­eta Brown, who also opened for De­Ment. De­Ment’s girl­ish wail of a voice has an al­most hyp­notic qual­ity, pow­er­ful enough to get you se­ri­ously think­ing about mor­tal­ity and what kind of life you’ve led. Many of De­Ment’s songs are about sal­va­tion and re­demp­tion, and the strong love she re­ceived from her mother. Flora Mae, she told the au­di­ence, lived to the ripe old age of ninety-three-and-a-half, at which point she started round­ing up to ninety-four to make her­self sound more im­pres­sively old. De­Ment was her mother’s eighth child — and her father’s four­teenth — a bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tail that proves her old-timey, fam­ily­band style of play­ing and sto­ry­telling is far more than per­sona. De­Ment’s and Brown’s on­stage pat­ter drew an en­vi­able, nearly idyl­lic pic­ture of ru­ral lives spent im­mersed in mu­sic and sur­rounded by both am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional mu­si­cians. The au­di­ence, the me­dian age of which skewed up­wards of fifty, greeted their sto­ries with warm ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

De­Ment sang “When My Morn­ing Comes Around” in honor of David Bowie, a song about the peace and for­give­ness of death. Brown also sang a tune for Bowie, telling the au­di­ence that she had more than one poster of the late glam-rocker on her walls when she was a teenager. The tributes must have been just two of thou­sands of­fered by mu­si­cians that night. The clos­ing num­ber was De­Ment’s most well-known song, “Let the Mys­tery Be,” an up­beat tune that neatly sum­ma­rizes most of De­Ment’s fa­vorite themes as well as her lack of em­pha­sis on a spe­cific re­li­gion, de­spite the overtly spir­i­tual di­men­sion of her body of work.

“Ev­ery­body’s won­derin’ what and where/They all came from/Ev­ery­body’s wor­ryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go/When the whole thing’s done/But no one knows for cer­tain and so it’s all the same to me/I think I’ll just let the mys­tery be.”

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