wed 22/05/2019

CD: Iris DeMent - The Trackless Woods | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Iris DeMent - The Trackless Woods

CD: Iris DeMent - The Trackless Woods

Russian poetry Southern country style

Iris DeMent's versions of poems by Anna Akhmatova

Iris DeMent’s settings of poems by the great 20th century poet Anna Akhmatova are as original as they are courageous: it's so easy to fall short of the genius displayed by the Russian mistress of the lyric verse. This is a work of love and devotion – prompted in part by DeMent’s adoption, along with her partner the equally original and talented Greg Brown, of a girl from the former Soviet Union.

There is a kinship between the singer from the American South , raised in the Pentecostal church, and the tortured soul of Akhmatova, who lived through Lenin and Stalin’s terror, refused to go into exile, and maintained a knife-edge survival course while never giving up her dedication to lyric poetry.

Iris DeMent set the bar as high as it goes, and has done Akhmatova more than proud

Joseph Brodsky, who knew Akhmatova, described her as “the keening muse”, who wrote “with a note of controlled terror”:  just right then for Iris DeMent, whose instantly recognizable voice is characterized by a frayed tone of spiritual pain, its edge torn by the sound of loss and grief. She comes close to being mannered, rather like those French chanteuses, Damia, Fréhel and Edith Piaf, but the authenticity of the emotion displayed keeps things under control, with a reserve that underscores the flow of intimate expression.

Recording in her living-room, DeMent is joined by a perfectly chosen group of immensely inspired musicians who know just when and how to accompany her gospel-tinged piano and add to the sweet melancholy which colours the melodies as well as the lyrics: delicate swathes of steel guitar from Jon Graboff, the mysterious filigree sounds of Richard Bennett’s “guitarphone”, delicate 12-string contributions from Leo Kottke, and a cavernous bass backing-vocal from Greg Brown on “Not With Deserters”, one of the standout tracks, Akhmatova’s hard remonstrance of those who chose exile rather than sticking it out on the soil of Mother Russia.

It’s not often that a top country voice sings lyrics by one of the 20th century’s greatest poets: Iris DeMent set the bar as high as it goes, and has done Akhmatova more than proud.

There is a kinship between the singer from the Southern USA, raised in the Pentecostal church, and the tortured soul of Akhmatova

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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What is the connection between Pentecostal-raised singer and totrtured soul poet? Cries out for explanation.

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