Lifeline

Lifeline

by Iris DeMent
     
 
Lifeline, Iris DeMent's fourth album and her first in eight years, finds the singer-songwriter returning to the gospel music of her youth -- the songs here are all Protestant spirituals, save one original, a traditional country reimagining of a biblical parable, "He Reached Down." As DeMent explains in the liner notes, these songs are not so much about religion

Overview

Lifeline, Iris DeMent's fourth album and her first in eight years, finds the singer-songwriter returning to the gospel music of her youth -- the songs here are all Protestant spirituals, save one original, a traditional country reimagining of a biblical parable, "He Reached Down." As DeMent explains in the liner notes, these songs are not so much about religion for her, but rather about the promise of wisdom and solace for those going through rough times -- hence the album's title. Given the spare acoustic arrangements and the plaintive, crying tone in DeMent's voice, no one should be surprised to hear echoes of the Carter Family in the performances: the stark presentations, the haunted feeling of some songs, and the forthright jubilation and rustic harmonies of tunes such as "Fill My Way with Love." Those accustomed to the soaring Southern Baptist rendition of "Blessed Assurance" will hear a new, foreboding nuance in DeMent's stripped-down, measured treatment, and you'd be hard pressed to find a more stirring rendition of "Hide Thou Me" than the one she delivers in a soulful cry, backed by her piano and discrete punctuations by electric guitar, slide guitar, and weissenborn. Ultimately, nothing's as piercing as DeMent alone at the piano, wailing and whispering the mesmerizing lyrics of "Sweet Hour of Prayer." It's a completely interior performance, unguarded and unabashed in its acknowledgement of divine guidance and the saving grace of a heart-to-heart with God. Those who were raised on these songs will feel the truth of the album title, and thanks to DeMent's unadorned, impassioned readings, those new to the canon shouldn't have any problem understanding the safe haven so many have found in the messages here.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - 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. ForDement 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.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/02/2004
Label:
Flariella Records
UPC:
0606673100421
catalogNumber:
1004
Rank:
23838

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Iris DeMent   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Jim Rooney   Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Mark Howard   Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Guitar (Nylon String)
Stuart Basore   Dobro
Stuart Duncan   Vocal Harmony
Pat Enright   Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Alan O'Bryant   Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Bo Ramsey   Electric Guitar,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar,Weissenborn
Barry Tashian   Vocal Harmony
David Roe   Upright Bass
Dave Roe   Double Bass

Technical Credits

Iris DeMent   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Jim Rooney   Producer,Audio Production
Mark Howard   Engineer
Richard Adler   Engineer
David Ferguson   Engineer
David K. Shipley   Engineer
G.T. "Dad" Speer   Composer
Fanny Crosby   Composer
Andra Czarnikow   Composer
William Walford   Composer
Public Domain   Composer
Elisha A. Hoffman   Composer
Pieta Brown   Cover Photo
A. J. Showalter   Composer
Laurella Design   Art Direction
Adger M. Pace   Composer

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