GRASS VALLEY, CA, April 5, 2023 – The Center for the Arts is pleased to present Iris DeMent with opener Pieta Brown in the Marisa Funk Theater on April 28, 2023. Known for her timeless songs that blend traditional folk, country, and gospel influences, DeMent has been praised for her storytelling and songwriting abilities. With a career spanning over three decades, DeMent has released seven studio albums and collaborated with notable artists such as John Prine, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle.
With an inimitable voice as John Prine described, “like you’ve heard, but not really,” and unforgettable melodies rooted in hymns, gospel, and old country music, she’s simply one of the finest singer-songwriters in America as well as one of our fiercest advocates for human rights. Her debut record Infamous Angel, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, was recently named one of the “greatest country albums of all time” by Rolling Stone, and the two albums that followed, My Life and The Way I Should, were both nominated for GRAMMYs. From there, DeMent released three records on her own label, Flariella Records, The Trackless Woods (2015), was hailed as “a quietly powerful triumph” by The Guardian. DeMent’s songs have also been featured in the film (True Grit) and television (The Leftovers) and recorded by numerous artists. Fittingly, she received the Americana Music Trailblazer Award in 2017.
On her transcendent new record, Workin’ On A World, Iris DeMent faces the modern world — as it is right now — with its climate catastrophe, pandemic illness, and epidemic of violence and social injustice — and not only asks us how we can keep working towards a better world, but implores us to love each other, despite our very different ways of seeing. Her songs are her way of healing our broken inner and outer Spaces.
Workin’ On A World, her seventh album, started with the worry that woke DeMent up after the 2016 elections: how can we survive this? “Every day some new trauma was being added to the old ones that kept repeating themselves, and like everybody else, I was just trying to bear up under it all,” she recalls. She returned to a truth she had known since childhood: music is medicine. “My mom always had a way of finding the song that would prove equal to whatever situation we were facing. Throughout my life, songs have been lending me a hand. Writing songs, singing songs, putting them on records, has been a way for me to extend that hand to others.” With grace, courage, and soul, Iris shares 13 anthems — love songs, really — to and for our broken inner and outer worlds.
DeMent sets the stage for the album with the title track in which she moves from a sense of despair towards a place of promise. “Now I’m workin’ on a world I may never see / Joinin’ forces with the warriors of love / Who came before and will follow you and me.” She summons various social justice warriors, both past and present, to deliver messages of optimism. “How Long” references Martin Luther King, while “Warriors of Love” includes John Lewis and Rachel Corrie. “Goin’ Down To Sing in Texas” is an ode not only to gun control, but also to the brave folks who speak out against tyranny and endure the consequences in an unjust world.
“I kept hearing a lot of talk about the arc of history that Dr. King so famously said bends towards justice,” she recalls. “I was having my doubts. But, then it dawned on me, he never said the arc would magically bend itself. Songs, over the course of history, have proven to be pretty good arc benders.” Bending inward, DeMent reaches agilely under the slippery surface of politics. As she approaches subjects of aging, loss, suicide, and service, an arc of compassion elevated to something far beyond words is transmitted. The delicate fierceness encompassed in the riveting power of her voice has somehow only grown over time.
Stalled partway through by the pandemic, the record took six years to make with the help of three friends and co-producers: Richard Bennett, Pieta Brown, and Jim Rooney. It was Pieta Brown who gave the record its final push with her encouragement. The result is a hopeful album — shimmering with brilliant flashes of poignant humor and uplifting tenderness — that speaks the truth, “in the way that truth is always hopeful,” she explains. On Workin’ On A World, Iris DeMent demonstrates that songs are the healing and the healing arises through song.
Pieta Brown joins Iris DeMent for an opening performance to this wonderful night of music at The Center for the Arts on April 28, 2023. Iris DeMent’s performance is part of the New Songs Fest: three days of songwriting workshops and evening concerts at The Center for the Arts. Learn more at https://thecenterforthearts.org/new-songs-fest-2023/.
WHAT: Iris DeMent
WHERE: The Center for the Arts | 314 West Main Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945
WHEN: Friday, April 28, 2023 | Doors 7:00 pm Show 8:00 pm
TICKETS: $39-49 (member discounts available) | thecenterforthearts.org
WEBSITE & INFO: https://sforce.co/3EdvBss or (530) 274-8384
Since 2000, The Center for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization, has grown into a leading presenter of music, dance, theater, comedy, literary and visual art, and family programming, offering more than 150 events per year from its location in downtown Grass Valley. The Center recently completed a major renovation of its multiuse, 21,000-square-foot facility in downtown Grass Valley, making it a premier performing arts destination. The venue includes the Main Stage, which accommodates up to 492 guests in configurable theater seats and up to 700 patrons for dance shows, and a 90-seat studio theater.