Top Ten Iris Dement Songs

Iris Dement Songs

Photo: Ron Baker (, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Iris Dement is one of America’s longest running folk singers who has received much acclaim over the course of her career. Iris Dement was born in Paragould Arkansas where she was the youngest of fourteen children. Her inspiration to be a singer came from her mother who had given up her dreams of being a performer in order to get married and have children. Her upbringing was also very religious and as a result of that she was exposed to a lot of gospel music growing up as well as country.

The start of her career came about when she starting writing her own music and at the age of twenty-five whilst she was working a series of menial jobs. After performing at a few open mike nights she contacted producer Jim Rooney who helped her secure a record contract. However, due to confidence issues that she suffered from in her younger years, it would a few more years before she actually recorded her first album.

Iris Dement released her first album Infamous Angel in 1992. Despite a lack of commercial support the album was successful due to its generally positive critical reception. The success of it enabled her to move from an independent label when she was offered a contract with Warner Bros.

Iris Dement followed this in 1994 with My Life which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Two years after this she put out her third album The Way I Should which was her most political work.

It would then be eight years before her next album was released. During this time she collaborated with a variety other artists. The song “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls written in 1999 was named after her. Iris Dement recorded four songs with singer John Prine on his album In Spite of Ourselves released in 1999. Iris Dement also recorded to soundtrack for the 2000 film “Songcatcher” in which she also starred. Iris Dement also dueted with Ralph Stanley on the song “Ridin That Midnight Train” which was featured on his 2001 album Clinch Mountain Sweethearts: Ralph Stanley and Friends. In addition to this she has recorded with other artists such as Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.

Iris Dement released her next full length album in 2004 titled Lifeline which was a collection of covers of Gospel songs. It would not be until 2012 that she would release her next album of original material titled Sing the Delta. Her most recent album was The Trackless Woods in 2015.

# 10 – And This You Call Work

This first track on our Iris Dement songs list is taken from her most recent sixth album The Trackless Woods released in 2015. All of the lyrics are poems written by the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and have been translated into English over compositions written by Dement who also sings the lyrics.

# 9 – Josh Turner- Pallbearer

Iris Dement contributes backing vocals to this track from country artist Josh Turner’s 2012 album Punching Bag. The album was Turner’s fifth and was very commercially successful reaching number four on the Billboard 200 and topping the Top Country Album Charts. Tuner co-wrote this song with Pat Mcloughlin.

# 8 – Big City (Merle Haggard cover)

This cover of the Merle Haggard classic was featured on the tribute album Tulare Dust: A Songwriters Tribute to Merle Haggard. Dement changes to lyrics a little on here to make them come from a female perspective. This works very well as she essentially makes this version of the song one about female empowerment.

# 7– Sing The Delta

This is the title track of Iris Dement’s fifth album released in 2012 which was her first of original material in sixteen years. The album has strong themes about Dement’s upbringing with this title being a reference to Arkansas Delta where much of her family lives. The album received a very positive critical reception.

# 6 – Leaning On the Everlasting Arms

This rendition of a hymn released in 1877 was taken from Dement’s fourth album titled Lifeline released in 2004 which was her first album in eight years and was a collection of versions of old Christians hymns. This particular track was featured on the credits of the 2010 movie “True Grit” directed by the Coen brothers.

# 5 – He Reached Down

This is the one track taken from Lifeline that was an original composition as opposed to a Gospel cover. This album was the first that she released on her own label Flariella Records that she named after her mother. Although the song is the only one actually by Dement, it fits well with the rest of the album.

# 4 – Wasteland of the Free

This protest song is taken from Dement’s third album The Way I Should released in 1996. The album as a whole is known for being Dement’s most politicised work with its lyrics tackling subjects such as war and religion. It reached number twenty-two on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

# 3 – Calling For You

This track is taken from Iris Dement’s second album My Life released in 1994. It got to number sixteen on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Dement dedicated the album to her father who died two years previously. The album was also very critically acclaimed and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

# 2 – Let The Mystery Be

This is taken from Dement’s debut album Infamous Angel released in 1992 and has been covered by a variety of artists including 10,000 Maniacs. It was used in 1993 film “Little Buddha” and in 2015 it was used as the theme tune for the HBO series The Leftovers, replacing the previous recorded title theme. It was also the opening theme of the series finale.

# 1 – Our Town

This track is also taken from Infamous Angel and was the first song that Dement ever wrote. There have been several covers of it and had some media exposure when it was used during the closing scenes of the American tv series “Northern Exposure.” The album contained linear notes written by John Prine who’s music Dement’s has frequently been compared to.

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