Iris DeMent Plays the Freight

The Arkansas-born alt country and gospel goddess brings her haunting voice to the Berkeley.


Iris DeMent brings her brand of alt country to The Freight.

With her serious voice and straightforward lyrics, Iris DeMent is an unmistakably earnest presence in country and gospel music. Her honest, unsentimental music doesn’t sugar-coat the hardscrabble realities of life, but her soulful voice helps make them easier to bear. Outlaw county legend Merle Haggard once praised her as the “best singer I ever heard,” and it’s not hard to see something of Haggard’s rough-hewn legacy in DeMent’s folksy but never phony style. Arkansas-born DeMent grew up in a deeply religious family in which gospel music was a way of life, but she only began writing her own original music at 25. Her second release won a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, but many fans outside the folk scene know her from the Cohen Brother’s film True Grit, where her song “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” played over the closing credits. She returned to creating original music after a 16-year hiatus in 2012, and will perform some of her newer work at the Freight and Salvage this month. Sept. 27, 8 p.m. $34 advance, $38 door. Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley.

Published online on Sept. 20, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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