Iris DeMent w/ Ana Egge - 11/13/18Tuesday, November 13 2018 6:00 pm Doors / 7:30 pm Start
- Front Premier
- Bar Stool
Iris DeMent w/ Ana Egge - 11/13/18
at City Winery Washington DC
- 6:00 pm
- 7:30 pm
- Front Premier
- Bar Stool
The last of fourteen children, born in Arkansas and raised in Southern California, DeMent spent her childhood immersed in gospel and traditional country music. Infamous Angel, initially issued on Rounder in 1992, before being picked up by Warner Bros., immediately established her as a promising and talented artist. Its 1994 follow-up, My Life, earned a Grammy nomination in the Contemporary Folk category and her 1996 album, The Way I Should, which addressed political, as well as personal themes, brought her a second nomination.
Along the way, several of DeMent’s songs became cultural touchstones. “Let The Mystery Be” found its way to MTV Unplugged as a duet by David Byrne and Natalie Merchant. “Our Town” was played over the farewell scene in the series finale of Northern Exposure. Merle Haggard, invited her to tour with his legendary band “The Strangers,” sitting in as piano player and later went on to record two of her songs, “No Time To Cry” and the gospel tinged “The Shores of Jordan”. She’s recorded and toured extensively with John Prine, singing four duets with him on “In Spite of Ourselves”, and had a minor role in the motion picture “Songcatcher”, as well as contributing a song to its soundtrack.
In 2004 she recorded the gospel album, Lifeline. “I took a bunch of old church songs I love...songs I’ve sung since as far back as I can remember, and sat down at a worn out, warbly piano with some tape rolling.” One of the songs caught on that tape, was her rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” the song the Coen Brothers, in 2010, chose to run over the closing credits of their remake of the classic western “True Grit.”
As with Lifeline, DeMent released her latest album, Sing The Delta on her own label, Flariella Records in 2012. Co-produced with Richard Bennett and Bo Ramsey, Sing The Delta was lauded by fans and critics far and wide: The Boston Globe called it “a work of rare, unvarnished grace and power”; Rolling Stone noted “these artisanal songs of love and doubt wear their homeliness proudly; the effect is like finding a bountiful farmstand in the middle of nowhere”. And, as in her earlier releases, Sing The Delta was praised by the folks at NPR, among them Ken Tucker who said “the songs on Sing The Delta only grow more rich, more emotionally complex, the more you hear them.
And now, 23 years after her debut album “Infamous Angel”, DeMent is busy preparing for the August release of her latest work “The Trackless Woods”, a collection of 18 poems written by the late Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and set to music by DeMent. More on that to come!
DeMent continues to tour extensively, singing the songs she loves: “My mom, who sang all the time, straight up to the end, said to me one day, not long before she died: “singin’ is prayin’. Even though I’m not religious in the way I was brought up to be, I understand what she meant. That’s what it feels like for me, too. We’re always linked to things bigger than ourselves but when I’m singing is when I most know that. It’s a good place to go...as often as possible!”
When Ana Egge got bit by the music bug as a teenager, she took matters into her own hands, building her own guitar, and moving to Austin, TX to observe, absorb and take musical risks. The striking depth and unusual maturity of her singing, playing, and songwriting got her noticed, and she recorded her first album, River Under the Road (1997) with the legendary western swing band, Asleep At The Wheel. The Austin Music Awards named her “Best Singer/Songwriter” and “Best Folk Artist.” Over the ensuing years and 8 subsequent CDs, Ana has made good on that promising debut. She has worked with producers Martin Terefe, Jason Mercer, Joel Plaskett, Steve Earle, and Stewart Lerman, and recorded full albums with The Stray Birds and The Sentimentals. Now, in 2018, she has released White Tiger, her tenth album, a new batch of Egge originals of such singularly articulate and affecting honesty and sensitivity, as to once again deserve USA Today’s accolade, “[Ana] can write and sing rings around” her contemporaries.
Ana Egge grew up with parents who “dropped out,” choosing to raise four girls in a lovingly cobbled together combination of a small farmhouse on the North Dakota plains, a bus on the California Coast, and a hot springs commune in rural New Mexico, scraping together dimes and hand-me-downs. Ana learned that her life was truly hers to create. “We were always the outsiders,” she says. “I was taught how to shoot a gun and how to enjoy alfalfa sprouts and tofu. I ran around barefoot and learned to ride a motorcycle when I was 5. I grew up with all the time and space in the world.” Given her unconventional upraising, it’s not surprising that Ana has since been plotting her own journey, confident, fearless, and uncompromising. She’s been around the horn of life’s experiences, having forsaken the Great Plains for Sunset Park in Brooklyn, and gotten married and become a mother, but she’s never lost touch with the free-spirited childhood and the Western landscape that formed her.
That questing spirit is everywhere evident on White Tiger. “Western Movie” finds a parallel for her freewheeling adolescence in the Tucson of Martin Scorcese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, while “Last Ride” fondly recalls a romance on the road (I borrowed my uncle’s motorbike / And I headed north on Interstate 5 / You were waiting and jumped on behind / I couldn’t wait to make you hold on tight). Ana’s later, big city escapades are chronicled in “Girls, Girls, Girls,” an evocation of a young lesbian first making the scene (New York City was the place to to be / Waiting on my man, waiting on sweet Jane), while “Dance Around The Room” finds Ana as a more domesticated young(ish) mother serenading her 4-year-old daughter (Reaching for the stars with you / And for the sun and moon / It opens up, opens up our hearts). An open heart can be everything to Ana, and it beats in the love songs “Be With You” (The church in the mountains / The cave where we slept / The city underground / The true love we kept), “You Among The Flowers” (You among the others, I picked you in full bloom / Thought you were another, first time I met / You remind me of a woman I once knew / You remind me of all the ways I wanted you), and even in the sweet resignation of the album closer, “Let The Light In” (Some kind of spell’s been broken down / Now I’m not afraid to be around you / Open the window and let the light in / Starting today we can finally be friends).
That open-hearted spirit of adventure is also evident in the communal music-making of White Tiger, most notably in Ana’s collaboration with producer Alec Spiegelman (Cuddle Magic), whose contributions on reeds, keyboards, and vocals, together with his wind, string, and vocal arrangements, elegantly inform the whole. Other featured musicians include singer Anais Mitchell, guitarist Buck Meek (Big Thief), drummer Robin MacMillan (Aoife O’Donovan), bassist Jacob Silver (Amy Helm), and violist Adam Moss (The Brother Brothers). Particularly touching is Ana’s live trio version of John Hartford’s “In Tall Buildings” with singer/guitarist Billy Strings and violinist Alex Hargreaves.
Ana wrote the song “White Tiger” as encouragement for a dear friend going through hell, and in need of her spirit guide (Keep your eyes on the tiger / Feed him, let him be your guide / Teach him freedom, that he might lead you / Through to the other side). Ana, herself, fiercely honest and compassionate, is not unlike that animal, near-miraculous, rare but real, and she, too, can take us through, enlighten our lives. She still plays that guitar she made herself all those years ago, and is still possessed by a self-determined sense of who she is and what she wants to do. As Lucinda Williams once told some friends, “Listen to her lyrics. Ana is the folk Nina Simone.” According to Shawn Colvin, “Ana has the rare gift of being so eloquent and simple that she takes your breath away. I just love her.”