Merle & Iris

For reasons that I cannot identify I decided yesterday to pull out some discs I had not played in too long; one is a Merle Haggard recording titled 1996 (on Curb, at a time when he was having (unbelievable but true) difficulty getting a recording contract), and there is a magnificent cover of a magnificent Iris DeMent song titled No Time To Cry.  The liner noted by Theresa Haggard describe it  as "an indescribable masterpiece".  

I agree.


I have been promoting Iris for years now, including here on Audiogon. "No Time To Cry" is indeed a masterpiece, perhaps the finest song written in the past half-century, and I’m not exaggerating. It was Merle singing her praises (a pun I’m happy with ;-) that hipped me to Iris. Thank you Merle!

I took the CD containing NTTC to CES in the late 90’s, using it as demo material. When Jerry Crosby played NTTC on his modified Quad 63’s, I broke down in tears (if you’ve heard the song you understand why), making a fool of myself, I felt. Rather unprofessional!

I’m very happy for you Richard, that you appreciate what Iris is and does, and truly pity those who don’t.

bdp24, thank you for this.  I had (so far) only one opportunity to see Iris in a small venue (350 seats) near me a few years back, and I literally fell in love that night.  I had all of her records and listened to them often, but seeing/hearing her at the piano singing was transcendental.  BTW, I agree that NTTC could be the finest song of the last half century, and Merle's version of it is transcendent.  I might have to put it against a John Prine song or two, but think NTTC would still be at the top.  I think Merle became aware of Iris when she covered his Big City on a tribute record.  
Iris Dement is a true artist, along with her husband of 15 years, Greg Brown. I came to appreciate both independently before they married. I haven't seen her live, but have seen Greg three times, including once at his "home" venue, The Mill, in Iowa City.

At that show, audience members, at Greg's suggestion, passed notes to the stage with requests, which he honored. I spoke to him for a few minutes between sets, a very easy-going and low-key guy. After five full sets (!), I had to leave for an early wake-up. Greg didn't leave.

The first song that got me hooked on him was the title song from his album, "Dream Cafe." The sonic quality of his recordings is typically excellent. His LP, "The Poet Game," is a particularly wonderful one, both musically and sonically.

If you like Iris, you might like Greg, too.
I've seen Iris live twice. At her show at The Troubadour in West L.A. in the mid-90's, the audience was so quiet and respectful you could have heard a pin drop. In addition to her great songwriting and singing, she has a wicked sense of humor. The musician's on her albums are all A-team Nashville masters, the best in the world---Jerry Douglas, etc. She is by far my favorite living artist.