#611 – January 6, 2016 Playlist

Wednesday MidDay Medley
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Produced and Hosted by Mark Manning

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Birthday Tribute to Iris DeMent

Wednesday MidDay Medley celebrates the Birthday of Iris DeMent, born January 5, 1961, in rural Paragould, Arkansas. She was the youngest of 14 children. At the age of three, her devoutly religious family moved to California, where she grew up singing gospel music. During her teenage years, Iris was exposed to country, folk, and R&B, drawing influence from Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell.

Iris moved to the midwest and after a series of jobs as a waitress and typist, Dement wrote her first song at the age of 25. She moved to Kansas City and played Harling’s Upstairs and open-mic nights alongside Scott Hrabko and Howard Iceberg. Iris met producer Jim Rooney in Nashville, in 1988, who helped her land a record contract.

Dement made her recording debut in 1992, when her independent label offering, “Infamous Angel” won critical acclaim. Despite a complete lack of support from country radio, the record’s word-of-mouth praise earned her a deal with Warner Bros. records, which reissued “Infamous Angel” in 1993.

0. “Main Title Instrumental – It’s Showtime Folks”
from: Motion Picture Soundtrack to All That Jazz / Universal / Dec. 20, 1979
[WMM’s theme]

1. Flora Mae DeMent – “Higher Ground”
from: Infamous Angel / Warner Brothers / 1992 / 1993

2. Iris DeMent – “Mama Was Always Tellin’ Her Truth”
from: Sing The Delta / Flariella / Oct. 2, 2012 [Iris Dement previewed many of her new songs when she was in concert with husband Greg Brown, for their 11-11-11 show at The Folly Theatre to benefit St. Mark Child and Family Development Center. Now those songs are part of her brand new release that includes a total of 12 new songs. It is her first full-length release of original songs since 1996. The new record has been critically acclaimed by the music press on both sides of the Atlantic.]

Iris DeMent’s inspirations: Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, and others.

10:12 – Influences of Iris DeMent

3. Loretta Lynn & Jack White – “Portland Oregon”
from: Van Lear Rose / Interscope / 2004
[Produced by Jack White of The White Stripes and Racontuers. It was initially intended as a musical experiment, blending the styles of country singer-songwriter Lynn and producer White, who performs on the whole album as a musician. At the time, Lynn was 69 and White was 28. The title refers to Lynn’s origins as the daughter of a miner working the Van Lear coal mines. The album was the most successful crossover music album of Lynn’s 45-year career. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, Lynn won: Best Country Album and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for her duet with White.]

4. Johnny Cash & Joni Mitchell – “Girl From North Country”
from: The Best of The Johnny Cash TV Show / Columbia Legacy / 2007
[a TV music variety show that ran for 58-episodes from June 7, 1969 to March 31, 1971 on ABC. It featured many folk/country musicians of the time: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Haggard, James Taylor and Tammy Wynette. It also featured other musicians such as jazz great, Louis Armstrong, who died 8 months after recording the show. Recorded at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, then home of the Grand Ole Opry. The first show featured Joni Mitchell, Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, Fannie Flagg and Bob Dylan. The show included a “Country Gold” segment that featured legends never seen on network TV such as Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys. Cash refused to cut the word “stoned” from Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, he stood by his Christian faith “despite network anxieties”, and persisted in bringing on Pete Seeger whose anti-Vietnam song on another network had “caused a firestorm.” He premiered his Man in Black song on an episode filmed at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University’s campus. The show was dumped in 1971 as part of ABC’s so-called “rural purge,” which also claimed that network’s The Lawrence Welk Show.]

5. John Prine w/ Iris Dement – “We’re Not The Jet Set”
from: In Spite Of Ourselves / Oh Boy / 1999
[In 1968 country superstar George Jones witnessed a fight between Tammy Wynette and her husband Don Chapel. At Jones’s urging, Wynette and her daughters drove away with him. Wynette and Jones married Feb. 16, 1969, and Wynette’s 4th daughter, Georgette, was born in 1970. Jones and Wynette, were nicknamed the “President and First Lady” of country music, and they recorded a string of hit duets that seemed drawn directly from their volatile relationship, which resulted in their divorcing in 1975. Their classic recordings included “Two Story House,” “Golden Ring,” and the humorous “(We’re Not) The Jet Set.” ]

6. Loretta Lynn – “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”
from: Legends of Country Music / Columbis Legacy / 1997
[Live performance for Austin City Limits taped in 1983. Loretta Webb was the second of 8 children; grew up in Butcher Holler, a section of Van Lear, a mining community in Kentucky. Growing up with such humble roots had a huge effect on Lynn’s life and heavily influenced her music as an adult. Her autobiography describes how, during her childhood, the community had no motor vehicles, paved roads, or flush toilets. She married Oliver Vanetta Lynn, known as “Doo,” on Jan. 10, 1948, at age 13. In an effort to break free of the coal mining industry, at 14, Lynn moved to the logging community Custer, Washington, with her husband. The Lynns had 4 children – Betty Sue, Jack Benny, Cissy and Ernest Ray – by the time Loretta was 18, and in her early 20s she then had twin girls, Peggy & Patsy. No stranger to controversy, Loretta Lynn possibly had more banned songs than any other country music artist, prior to The Dixie Chicks, including “Rated X,” about the double standards divorced women face, “Wings Upon Your Horns,” about the loss of teenage virginity, and “The Pill,” lyrics by T. D. Bayless, about a wife and mother becoming liberated via the birth control pill. Her song “Dear Uncle Sam,” released in 1966 during the Vietnam War, describes a wife’s anguish at the loss of a husband to war. It has been included in live performances during the US – Iraq War.]

7. Merle Haggard – “Workin’ Man Blues”
from: Oh Boy Classic Presents Merle Haggard / Oh Boy Records / 2000 [Originally released in 1969, a tribute to a core group of his fans: The American blue-collared working man. Backed by an electric guitar that typified Haggard’s signature Bakersfield Sound, he fills the role of one of those workers expressing pride in values of hard work and sacrifice, despite the resulting fatigue and the stress of raising a large family. Included on Haggard’s 1969 album “A Portrait of Merle Haggard.” Included in this collection on John Prine’s Oh Boy Records.]

10:29 – Underwriting

10:30 – Influences of Iris DeMent

Iris DeMent represents that place in the road, where Country and Folk music merged with honest stories, of working class people, not afraid to tell the truth about the times they are living through. Iris DeMent grew up singing gospel music. During her teenage years she was first exposed to country, folk, and R&B, drawing influence from Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell.

8. Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
from: 16 Biggets Hits / Columbia Legacy / 2007
[co-written by June Carter (wife of Johnny Cash) and Merle Kilgore. The song was recorded on March 25, 1963 and became the biggest hit of his career, staying at #1 on the charts for 7 weeks. “Ring of Fire” refers to falling in love – which is what June Carter was experiencing with Johnny Cash at the time. Some sources claim that June had seen the phrase, “Love is like a burning ring of fire,” underlined in one of her uncle A. P. Carter’s Elizabethan books of poetry. She worked with Kilgore on writing a song inspired by this phrase as she had seen her uncle do in the past. In the 2005 film, Walk the Line June is depicted as writing the song while agonizing over her feelings for Cash despite his drug addiction and alcoholism as she was driving home one evening. She had written: “There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns”. Cash claims he had a dream where he heard the song accompanied by “Mexican horns”. Four years after the song was released, Carter and Cash were married which Cash states helped to stop his alcohol and drug addictions. Cash’s daughter, Rosanne has stated, “The song is about the transformative power of love and that’s what it has always meant to me and that’s what it will always mean to the Cash children.]

9. Bob Dylan – “I Shall Be Released”
from: The Essential Bob Dylan / Columbia – Sony / 2000 [Originally recorded October, 1971. ]

10. Joni Mitchell – “For The Roses”
from: For The Roses / Asylumn / 1972
[Released between her 2 biggest commercial and critical successes – “Blue” and “Court & Spark”. In 2007 it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. The title song “For the Roses” was Mitchell’s farewell to the business; she took an extended break for a year after. The album was critically acclaimed with The New York Times saying “Each of Mitchell’s songs on For the Roses is a gem glistening with her elegant way with language, her pointed splashes of irony and her perfect shaping of images. Never does Mitchell voice a thought or feeling commonly. She’s a songwriter and singer of genius who can’t help but make us feel we are not alone.” A nude photograph of Joni Mitchell was included on the inside cover of the original LP and is included in the CD booklet. The photograph shows the singer from the rear and was taken from a considerable distance; she is shown standing on a rock and staring out at the ocean. This created some controversy at the time.]

10:44

Iris DeMent’s first three releases were on Warner Brothers Records, all critically acclaimed, she received two Grammy nominations during this time, in the “Folk Music” category. Meanwhile country radio completely overlooked her original songs, and amazing voice, that has been compared to Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. This next set features music from her debut recording, “Infamous Angel,” as well as its follow-up, the autobiographical, “My Life,” released in 1994 and we’ll play from her third Warner Brother’s release, “The Way I Should,” released in 1996, which contains some of Iris DeMent’s most political songs. When Michael Moore spoke at The Uptown Theatre Iris DeMent opened for him, with his favorite song “Wasteland of the Free.” We will play the title track, “The Way I Should.”

[We read the liner notes of Infamous Angel written by John Prine]

11. Iris DeMent – “Infamous Angel”
from: Infamous Angel / Warner Brothers / 1992 / 1993

12. Iris DeMent – “My Life”
from: My Life / Warner Brothers / 1994

13. Iris DeMent – “The Way I Should”
from: The Way I Should / Warner Brothers / 1996
[Produced by Randy Scruggs]

10:55 – Collaborations

14. Nanci Griffith w/Iris – “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder”
from: Other Voices Other Rooms / Elektra / 1993 [written by Gordon Lightfoot]

15. Nanci Griffith w/Iris & Emmylou – “Are You Tired of Me Darling”
from: Other Voices Other Rooms / Elektra / 1993
[High Harmony – Iris / Low Harmony – Emmylou Harris]
[Nanci Griffith’s 10th album. Here she pays homage to other songwriters who have influenced her own career.]

16. John McCutcheon w/Iris – “Over The Garden Wall”
from: Sprout Wings and Fly / Rounder / 1997
[written by AP Carter]

17. Gary Kirkland w/Iris – “Just For Me”
from: Shootin’ The Works on Love / Dark Horse / 2003

11:15 – More Collaborations

18. Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band w/Iris – “I’m Still In Love With You”
from: The Mountain / E – Squared / 1999
[Released February 23, 1999. Songs were written by Earle as a tribute to the founder of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, who had died in 1996.]

19. John Prine w/ Iris – “In Spite of Ourselves”
from: In Spite of Ourselves/ Oh Boy / 1999 [written by John Prine]

20. Tom Russell w/Iris – “Love Abides”
from: The Man From God Knows Where / Hightone / 1999

11:29 – Underwriting

11:30 – Greg Brown

In the 2002 Iris DeMent did a benefit concert for The Friends of Community Radio at Unity Temple on The Plaza. I remember when Iris asked us if it was okay that she have a musician friend open the concert for her, we agreed because Iris was donated her talent to the cause of community radio. And then she told us that this musician friend was Greg Brown, wh at this point was know all over the countryu but had never before played KC.

Later that year, on November 21, 2002 Greg married Iris DeMent in a private ceremony in the office of Rev. Sam Mann of St. Mark Church in East KC.

Grammy Nominated Greg Brown is one of the most repected singer songwriters working in music today. He started singing professionally at the age of 18 organizing early folk concerts in New York City, Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In the 1980s, he worked and toured extensively as musical director for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio program. He also founded his own record label, named Red House Records after a home in which he lived in Iowa.

Greg Brown has released over 30 recordings and has allowed much of his music to be used to raise funds and awareness for environmental and social causes. His songs have been performed by Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson, Carlos Santana, Michael Johnson, Ani DiFranco, Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Iris DeMent and Joan Baez.

21. Greg Brown w/Iris -“Jacob’s Ladder”
from: Honey in The Lion’s Head / Trailer / 2003

22. Greg Brown – “Bucket”
from: Evening Call / Red House / 2006 [The Washington Post writes, “The singer-songwriter from Iowa has a baritone as rough and chunky as Thanksgiving gravy with the turkey bits still in, and that’s just how his words drip out on his album, “The Evening Call.” on “Whippoorwill” he sing as sweetly as his lover down in Kansas City. That’s his wife, Iris DeMent, and on “Joy Tears,” he tells her, “When you start your singing, honey, the heavens open up with grace.”]

23. Greg Brown – “Let The Mystery Be”
from: Freak Flag / Yep Roc / May 10, 2011
[While recording what was to be his next album lighting hit the studio where he was working, and Greg Brown lost the recordings. Greg, used the experience to turn inward and write more songs that comprise his 24th album: Freak Flag, the title track is all that remains of the lost original album. Greg wrote ten new songs, recording them at Memphis, Tennessee’s legendary Ardent Studios. Produced by Bo Ramsey, the album also includes a cover of Brown’s daughter Pieta’s song ”Remember the Sun.’]

11:45

In his review for WHYY’s Fresh Air, Entertainment Weekly Music Editor – Ken Tucker wrote: “Iris DeMent possesses one of the great voices in contemporary popular music: powerfully, ringingly clear, capable of both heartbreaking fragility and blow-your-ears-back power. Had she been making country albums in the ’70s and ’80s and had more commercial ambition, she’d probably now be considered right up there with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Instead, she’s lived a contemporary life, a somewhat private life. As she recently told an interviewer, “There’s a lot that goes into life besides songwriting.” And she’s taken her time in composing songs that fit into no genre easily.”

Iris released her 5th album “Sing The Delta” in 2012 to glowing reviews from the UK publication Uncut, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, and was in many Top Ten Lists of KC music affictionados, incl. #1 on our list of The 112 Best Recordings of 2012.

11:47

24. Iris DeMent – “Livin’ On The Inside”
from: Sing The Delta / Flariella / Oct. 2, 2012
[Her first full-length release of original songs since 1996. Iris was our special guest on our Oct 10, WMM.]

11:51

In 2015 Iris DeMent released her 6th album, again with national acclaim and a #5 spot on Wednesday MidDay Medley’s “The 115 Best Recordings of 2015.” The Trackless Woods sets 18 poems by acclaimed 20th century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova to life. Hailed as one of Russia’s finest poets, Akhmatova survived the Bolshevik Revolution, both World Wars and Stalin. When Iris randomly stumbled upon Akhmatova’s work in a book of poetry a friend sent as a gift, she was immediately taken by the sorrow and burden of the poems. ”Anna’s gift of song is so strong, about alI I had to do was get really quiet and listen,” says Iris. After reading that first poem the melodies began pouring out of her, and before she even fully understood what was driving her, Iris was gathering musicians and friends, including co-producer Richard Bennett (Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Steve Earle), to record ‘The Trackless Woods’ in her living room over a five-day period. The project also fulfilled a long yearned-for desire to connect with her adopted daughter’s culture and history. Iris and her husband Greg Brown adopted their daughter from Siberia in 2005, when she was 6, and she says ”I’d never have made this record were it not for her.”

Iris DeMent joined us on WMM on November 18.

25. Iris DeMent – “From an Airplane”
from: The Trackless Woods / FlariElla / August 7, 2015

11:56

26. Iris DeMent – “That’s The Way Love Goes”
from: NPR Studio Cuts / NPR / 2000
[written by Lefty Frizzell, recorded in NPR Studios Dec. 16, 1997. Iris told us that she learned this song from a Merle Haggard Record.]
11:59:30

27. Noel Coward – “The Party’s Over Now”
from: Noel Coward in New York / drg / 2003 [orig. 1957]

Next Week on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 we present: “Remembering MLK” we’ll celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929. We’ll play music from: The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield, Mahalia Jackson, Sweet Honey in The Rock, Tramaine Hawkins, Ella Mitchell, Billy Porter, Solomon Burke, Nina Simone, Pops Staples, Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers, Thelonius Monk Septet, Pete Seeger, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Labelle, Darwin Hobbs & Karen Clark-Sheard, Bobby Watson & The I Have a Dream Project. Plus, we’ll talk with dancer and performance artist, choreographer Cat Mahari, and internationally acclaimed, award winning Kansas City jazz trumpeter, Hermon Mehari, join us to share information about BAM! the Workshop, a multimedia performance approach to diversity and inclusion training, that is focused on honest and impactful conversations about America and blackness, localized stories and events to develop better workplace diversity, economic growth and community development.

Sources for notes: artist’s websites, bios, wikipedia.org 


Wednesday MidDay Medley in on the web:
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Show #611

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