Wednesday MidDay Medley
TEN to NOON Wednesdays – Streaming at KKFI.org
90.1 FM KKFI – Kansas City Community Radio
Produced and Hosted by Mark Manning
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Wednesday MidDay Medley Celebrates Iris DeMent
1. “Main Title Instrumental – It’s Showtime Folks”
from: Motion Picture Soundtrack to All That Jazz / Universal / Dec. 20, 1979
2. Greg Brown – “Let The Mystery Be”
from: Freak Flag / Yep Roc / May 10, 2011
[Iris Dement’s song “Let The Mystery Be” from her debut Infamous Angel, from 1992. This song was covered by David Bryne, 10,000 Maniacs, Bun E. Carlos, and many others, it also became the theme song for the 2nd season of The Leftovers.While Greg Brown was recording this album, lighting hit the studio where Greg Brown he was recording songs for his 24th album: Freak Flag, the title track was all that remained 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 Pieta Brown’s song ”Remember the Sun.”]
Thanks for tuning into WMM, here on 90.1 FM KKFI – Kansas City Community Radio, I’m Mark Manning. Today we celebrate the birthday of Iris DeMent, born January 5, 1961, in rural Paragould, Arkansas. She was the youngest of 14 children. At the age of 3, her devoutly religious family moved to California, where she grew up singing gospel music. During her teenage years, Iris was exposed to country, folk, & R&B, drawing influence from Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, & Joni Mitchell.
Iris moved to the midwest, and after a series of jobs as a waitress and typist she 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.
Iris Dement made her recording debut in 1992, with her independently produced album, “Infamous Angel.” The record won critical acclaim and John Prine mentioned Iris in his list of favorite recordings of the year published in Rolling Stone. Despite a complete lack of support from country radio, the word of mouth praise for Iris DeMent’s “Infamous Angel” earned her a deal with Warner Bros Records, which reissued “Infamous Angel” in 1993. The album also included the song, “Let The Mystery Be” a composition that has also been covered by David Bryne, 10,000 Maniacs, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Greg Brown, and it was the theme song for the second season of HBO’s The Leftovers.
Today we feature music from Iris DeMent’s six full length albums, her vast collaborative studio work with artists such as: Greg Brown, John Prine, Nancy Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Tom Russell, Steve Earle, and Kansas City’s own, Gary Kirkland.
And we’ll also feature music from Iris DeMent’s inspirations: Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan.
Please stay with us.
Full disclosure, I love Iris DeMent. I’ve seen her live in concert over 8 times. I met Iris DeMent when I was working at Kinkos at 39th & Rainbow in 1992. Iris came in to copy press clippings, she was in the process of releasing her debut album. I wasn’t familiar with her music until I saw her on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1995, where she performed her song, “My Life.” I was blown away. I had video-taped the show, and I would replay that song for everyone that came to visit. I wanted everyone to know about Iris DeMent.
I ran into Iris at Classic Cup in Westport. By this point I had become a big fan of her music and I was sort of star stuck, but she approached me and asked, “How do I know you?” Our friendship was able to continue because we shared a mutual friend named Anne Winter, who invited me to a holiday party in Iris Dement’s River Market condo where we sang old fashioned hymns, with members of The Wilders. Anne Winter had become a close friend of Iris and even went out “on the road” with her at one point. Because of Anne, I stage managed a show at the Uptown Theatre with Michael Moore, Iris deMent and the Wilders all performing. Anne Winter also helped arranged for Iris to play one of our Big Bang Buffet shows in 1999 at The Hobbs Building. In 2002 Iris agreed to do a benefit show for Friends of Community Radio. At this point she was living in Coleman Heights in Kansas City and invited Linda Wilson and I to a home cooked meal at her house, to talk aver the details of the show. In 2004 Iris and Greg Brown performed together in a show with Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now!” to raise over $10,000.00 for KKFI. Iris never took a penny from any of these shows, and has always been such a generous supporter of 90.1 FM. She recognized as a singer songwriter how important community radio is for independent artists like herself, and she has always given back, to help keep this radio station alive. Because of Iris DeMent’s generosity, and in honor of our dear friend Anne Winter, who we lost in 2009, I vowed to pay tribute to Iris on her birthday, each year, with this radio show.
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.]
10:25 – Underwriting
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 Biggest 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.]
Iris DeMent’s first three releases, all on Warner Brothers records, were critically acclaimed, and 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. For her 1992 debut record, John Prine wrote the liner notes.
[Read the liner notes from John Prine]
“One night after receiving a copy of “Let the Mystery Be,” I was listening to the tape while frying a dozen or so pork chops in a skillet. Well Iris DeMent starts singing about “Mama’s Opry,” and being the sentimental fellow I am, I got a lump in my throat and a tear fell from my eyes into the hot oil. Well the oil popped out and burnt my arm as if the pork chops were trying to say, “Shut up, or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” Of course, pork chops can’t talk. But Iris DeMent’s songs can. They talk about isolated memories of life, love and living. And Iris has a voice I like a whole lot, like one you’ve heard before— but not really. So listen to this music, this Iris DeMent. It’s good for you. And if pork chops could talk, they’d probably learn how to sing one of her songs. Then we’d all have something to cry about.”
– John Prine, Songwriter, musician & president Oh Boy! Records
11. Iris DeMent – “Infamous Angel”
from: Infamous Angel / Warner Brothers / 1992 / 1993
Iris followed up her debut record with the autobiographical, “My Life,” released in 1994 and quickly followed with her third Warner Brother’s release, “The Way I Should,” released in 1996, which contains some of Iris DeMent’s most political songs.
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]
14. 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.]
15. Gary Kirkland w/Iris – “Just For Me”
from: Shootin’ The Works on Love / Dark Horse / 2003
11:00 – Station I.D.
16. John Prine w/ Iris – “In Spite of Ourselves”
from: In Spite of Ourselves/ Oh Boy / 1999
[written by John Prine]
17. 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.]
18. Tom Russell w/Iris – “Love Abides”
from: The Man From God Knows Where / Hightone / 1999
11:13 – Underwriting
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 donating her talent to the cause of community radio. And then she told us that this musician friend was Greg Brown, who at this point was known all over the country, 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.
19. Greg Brown w/Iris -“Jacob’s Ladder”
from: Honey in The Lion’s Head / Trailer / 2003
20. Greg Brown – “Wippoorwill”
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.”]
21. Greg Brown – “Bucket”
from: Evening Call / Red House / 2006
In 2004 Iris DeMent independently released her 4th album, and her first in 8 years. It was a collection of protestant gospel hymns that she grew up hearing her mother sing. The album is called “Lifeline” and includes one original song called, “He Reached Down,” a song inspired by a sermon delivered by Rev. Sam Mann at St Mark Church in Kansas City.]
22. Iris DeMent – “He Reached Down”
from: Lifeline / Flariella / November 2, 2004
[Lifeline is the fourth album released by singer-songwriter Iris DeMent, released in 2004, eight years since her previous recording The Way I Should. Lifeline contains many traditional Protestant gospel songs DeMent describes as finding comfort in playing and singing. In her liner notes, DeMent recounts how her mother sang these songs in times of stress looking straight at the sky, “as if she were talking to someone.” DeMent’s rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” accompanies the closing credits of the Coen brothers’ True Grit (2010). Thom Jurek of Allmusic writes: “… [DeMent] claims that for her, too, the music contained here became her lifeline through a season of hardship… While this is far from a full return to form for Dement, it is truly good to have her back.” Music critic Robert Christgau wrote “Her heart cherishes Jesus’ memory, but her mind, voice, and soul remain her own.”]
After Lifeline it would be 8 more years before Iris DeMent would release another album.
Iris gave audiences a taste of her new music during a sold out benefit concert at The Folly Theatre with Greg Brown on November 11, 2011. The benefit was organised by friend Rev. Sam Mann for the St. Mark Child and Family and Development Center. Iris and Greg helped Rev Mann raise over $50,000.00 for the center that serves children and families on the east side in Kansas City.
Iris DeMent’s 2012 album “Sing The Delta” received 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, including being #1 on our list of WMM’s The 112 Best Recordings of 2012.
23. Iris DeMent – “Livin’ On The Inside”
from: Sing The Delta / Flariella / October 2, 2012
[Her first full-length release of original songs since 1996. Iris was our special guest on our Oct 10, WMM.]
In 2015 Iris DeMent released her 6th album, with national acclaim, and a #5 spot on WMM’s 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. Iris recorded the album with co-producer Richard Bennett 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 Iris says ”I’d never have made this record were it not for her.”
24. Iris DeMent – “Listening to Singing”
from: The Trackless Woods / FlariElla / August 7, 2015
[6th album from Grammy nominated Iris DeMent who NPR said was ”one of the great voices in contemporary popular music.” 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. She lost family, friends & fellow writers to political killings and labor in the gulags. 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, juxtaposed with Akhmatova’s lightness and transcendence in the face of inhumanity. ”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 & friends, including co-producer Richard Bennett (Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Steve Earle), to record ‘The Trackless Woods’ in her living room over a 5-days. The result is a pairing of piano and voice in Iris’ style with timeless melodies that are rooted in the American South.]
Like Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, Iris DeMent has never shied away from lending her voice to justice and social causes. On March 2, 2017 in response to the election and policies of current President Donald Trump, Iris released her latest song “We Won’t Keep Quiet” on You Tube. Written and performed by Iris DeMent with members of the Iowa City community who sang with her, and participated in the Lift the Ban Rally in Iowa City, the Women’s March in Des Moines, and the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. The song has not been released anywhere other than You Tube.
25. Iris DeMent – “We Wont Be Quiet”
from: We Wont Be Quiet – Single / Unreleased / March 2, 2017
[Recorded and mixed by Deb Talan and Steve Tannen. The video was made by Mei-Ling Shaw with DC footage by Jordan Sellergren. RESIST!]
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.”
Happy Birthday Iris DeMent! Thank you for all of the great music and thank you for donating your talents to raise thousands of dollars for non-for-profit charities in Kansas City including 90.1 FM – KKFI. We love you Iris DeMent!
For Wednesday MidDay Medley I’m Mark Manning. Thanks for listening!
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 DeMent learned to sing and play this song from a Merle Haggard record.]
27. Noel Coward – “The Party’s Over Now”
from: Noel Coward in New York / drg / 2003 [orig. 1957]
Next Week on January 9, Wednesday MidDay Medley Celebrates David Bowie featuring short stories about David Bowie from nine of his biggest fans: Michelle Bacon, Barry Lee, Ben Grimes, Cody Wyoming, Krystle Warren, Jesse Bartmess, Marion Merritt, Ian Michael Flanagan Johnson, and Nico Gray. We’ll feature representative tracks from some of the 27 studio albums of Bowie’s career, including songs he wrote or produced for: Lou Reed, and Mott the Hoople, and Bowie songs performed by: Joan As Police Woman, Col. Chris Hadfield, Nile Rodgers and James Murphy and the KC bands: Soft Reeds, and The Band That Fell To Earth. ALSO, Michelle Bacon joins us to share details about The Band That Fell To Earth and the 4th annual tribute to David Bowie with TWO nights of music: Friday, January 18 and Saturday, January 19, at recordBar, 1520 Grand.
Wednesday MidDay Medley in on the web: