When she first arrived on the scene in the early '90s, Iris Dement was widely hailed as an Americana artist on par with Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin. As it turned out, her sparse output over the past two decades relegated her to the also-ran category, and as a result, she had to forfeit her contention for the role of alt.-country queen. It's been eight years since her last album, a veritable lifetime in the fickle music biz, and now Dement finds herself in the unfortunate position of trying to regain old ground.
Happily then, "Sing the Delta" may be just the album to reboot her sagging profile. Her first collection of wholly original material in some 16 years - 16 years! - it finds her plowing the Pentecostal roots sown during her devoutly religious upbringing. Likewise, in revisiting some similar terrain as that covered on 2004's songs of faith collection "Lifeline," it does a remarkably fine job of reinforcing her spiritual essence. Here again, Dement's created a stirring set of torch songs that are both profound and inspired. The Kingdom Has Already Come, Sing the Delta and There's a Whole Lotta Heaven capture those sentiments remarkably well, and there's not a single song here that dares to deviate from her clear-cut conviction.
Credit should also go to co-producers Bo Ramsey and Richard Bennett, as well as a superb cast of supporting players - Al Perkins and Reese Wynans among them. Ultimately though, all it takes is a solitary piano and Dement's searing, soulful vocals to affirm the album's archival ambiance and her reverential devotion. Sweeping and stirring with emotional depth, "Sing the Delta" allows Dement to testify with true purpose.