450 Franklin Street, Rocky Mount VA 24151 - 540-484-8277

Iris DeMent w/ Pieta Brown (Benefit for Unbridled Change)

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Iris DeMent w/ Pieta Brown (Benefit for Unbridled Change)
Saturday, August 29, 2015 8:00 PM
Harvester Performance Center, Rocky Mount, VA
  • All Ages
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Show Details
  • Ticket Price: $37.00
  • Door Time: 7:00 PM
  • Show Type: Folk
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A benefit for Unbridled Change

DeMent, the last of 14 children, born in Arkansas and raised in Southern California, grew up immersed in gospel music and traditional country. She was somewhat of a late bloomer as an artist, writing her first song at the age of 25. Her first release, 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. And, the legendary Merle Haggard, who invited her to sit in as his piano player touring with his  band The Strangers, subsequently covered two of her songs, “No Time To Cry” and the gospel-tinged “The Shores of Jordan.”  DeMent has recorded and toured extensively with John Prine, singing four duets with him on  his 1991 acclaimed release “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 an album of gospel songs, 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, in 2012 DeMent released her latest album, Sing The Delta on her own label, Flariella Records. Co-produced by Richard Bennett and Bo Ramsey, Sing The Delta was lauded by fans and critics alike:  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 farm stand in the middle of nowhere.”  And, as in her earlier releases, Sing The Delta was well-received 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 the release of her debut album “Infamous Angel“,  DeMent is 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.    Rest assured there will be more to come on that!

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.  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!”


Pieta Brown

"one of the best folk discs in recent memory" - BLURT Magazine

The daughter of two preacher’s kids, Pieta Brown’s early upbringing in Iowa was in a rural outpost with no furnace, running water, or TV.  There, she was exposed to traditional and rural folk music through her father, Greg Brown, the now beloved Midwestern folk singer.  Later, while living with her mother in Birmingham, Alabama during her formative years, Pieta drew on and expanded these influences and began writing poems and composing instrumental songs on piano.  By the time she left home at 18 she had lived in at least 19 different houses and apartments between Iowa and Alabama. 

In her early 20's, after experiencing what she describes as "the songs calling", Pieta started experimenting with the banjo and eventually picked up a 1930's Maybell arch-top guitar during a visit to her father's place and never looked back.  Emerging from a disjointed and distinctly 'bohemian' upbringing, Pieta began performing live and making independent recordings soon after teaching herself how to play guitar. "I grew up around a lot of musicians and artists living on the fringe, and have always felt most at home among them," Pieta says.  

Making her first recording with (now) frequent collaborator, guitar-ace and Grammy-Award winning Indie/Roots/Americana Producer, Bo Ramsey, started Pieta down the path of making recordings based around live performances. Her first album (self-titled), recorded and released independently in 2002, was recorded live in 3 days to 2-inch tape.  "My first experience in the studio really steered me down a certain road," Pieta says.  "I was so shy about singing my songs then, and barely understood how to sing into a microphone, in spite of all the live music I had grown up around. Still, I was feverishly driven to deliver these songs in my heart.  Right away, during that first recording session, as we were playing live and recording to tape as it went down, I experienced the magic of hooking all the way in with the song in the moment...playing the songs, with those players, playing those instruments, in that room, at that time. And ever since, I've been hooked on that magic feeling."

Continually revealing new layers as both a songwriter and performer, Pieta is being recognized as one of modern Americana's true gems.  In just the last 4 years Pieta has released two critically acclaimed albums, with much attention being paid not only to her distinct sound and style, but also the power of her singing and songwriting.  Since releasing One and All (2010) and Mercury (2011), Pieta has toured North America with Mark Knopfler, and toured various regions of the U.S., Australia and Canada with John PrineAmos LeeBrandi CarlisleJJ CaleAni DifrancoMavis Staples, and Calexico among others.  She has made guest appearances on Mason Jennings' album, Always Been, two of Calexico’s recent albums (Algiers and Carried To Dust), including singing on the song "Fortune Teller" (which Pieta penned with Joey Burns),as well as appearing on Amos Lee’s album, Mission Bell (2012).  Pieta's father, Greg Brown, recorded one of her songs, Remember The Sun, on his album Freak Flag (2011), and invited her to sing and play banjo on his latest release, Hymns For What Is Left (2012).  One of Pieta's all time favorite singers, Iris Dement, has been singing Pieta's song "Faller" (from One and All) in her live shows. Pieta's song I Don't Mind (from Mercury) was also recently translated and released (as Het Deert Me Niet) by Belgian pop songtress Eva De Roovere

Now with Paradise Outlaw, Pieta delivers her most emotionally resonant compositions, and some of her most expressive performances, to date.  Produced by Pieta, with frequent collaborator and partner, Bo RamseyParadise Outlaw was recorded in four days at Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon's April Base studio in Wisconsin with a supporting cast that includes Vernon, Amos Lee, Brown's troubadour father, Greg Brown and various members of an experimental group of players she calls the Sawdust Collective. 

Showcasing Brown's established strengths while staking out fresh new creative territory, Brown says of the songs, "On my last album, I was recording near Nashville with top-call studio musicians who I hadn't worked with before, and exploring the idea of craft and trying to hone in on more classic forms than I had previously." She adds, "Paradise Outlawcame from a radically different place. I was thinking a lot about freedom, experimentation, poetry, folk songs, bending forms and voices. I also wrote and delivered half the songs on the banjo, which was completely new for me.”

Paradise Outlawfeatures twelve originals by Brown plus a co-write and duet with soulster Amos Lee ("Do You Know") and a cover of Mark Knopfler's"Before Gas And TV." 

Brown continues, "Growing up around many musicians and artists, often living on the fringe, I have always felt most at home among them.  And that’s where I made this recording.  Surrounded by friends in an underground Mid-western goldmine."