Trouble in mind

Kenny Mathieson follows the

latest twist in the plot from singer Iris DeMent

Any artist who can move from The Ferry to the Royal Concert Hall in the space of two concerts only months apart. and do so largely on word of mouth. is clearly someone very special. Iris DeMent did exactly that back in I994. when she transfixed both audiences with her compelling singing and highly emotional songs. a feat she has repeated on subsequent solo performances around Scotland. When she makes her Celtic Connections debut. however. it will also be her first time in the UK with her new band. The Trouble Makers.

‘I really only started touring and playing in concert hall type venues at all in the summer of [992. and l‘ve mostly played solo in that time. It‘s only very recently that i finally got a working band together. i like it a lot already it’s really fun. and you feel that you've got a little kind of family up there with you. i guess it eases the pressure a little. too.‘

DeMent‘s new album also reveals a shift of emphasis. away from the highly personal material of Infamous Angel and My [.lft’. and toward a greater variety. The harrowing ‘There's A Wall in Washington'. about the emotional legacy of Vietnam. or the caustic ‘Wasteland Of The Free’ and ‘Quality Time‘. with their withering looks at contemporary American life. have added a cutting social and political edge.

‘lt wasn‘t so much a big change of direction as the fact that i didn’t want to make another record that sounded just like the last one. i like to try to keep being creative. and not get bored with my music. Randy Scruggs produced the album. and he asked me right off ifl was against electric instruments or

drums or whatever. and i said that if it felt right and sounded good. I wanted to do it.‘

The change has not been universally welcomed. and The Way I Should has received some cooler reviews alongside the adulator'y ones. DeMent‘s essential qualities emerge intact from the new sound. however. and it marks another major development in the career of an artist who began her singing in the fundamentalist church favoured by her parents. and made the step into the music business later than


‘i always knew i wanted to do music. but when l was younger I never saw it as being outside of the church. and i think my mother would probably still prefer it that way. I had thirteen brothers and sisters. and they were all into music. so I heard a lot of gospel and country music around the house. I finally started writing my own songs when l was 25. eleven

years ago.‘

She started playing on ‘open mic‘ nights in clubs.


. ’1‘ I; ’1


his DeMent: authentic roots

moved to Nashville for a couple of years. and was eventually signed by Rounder Records. After one album. Warner Brothers bought out her contract. bringing her better distribution and no interference in artistic policy (so far). The music which was emerging definitely sounded country. even if her strong. soaring vocals owed more to the music‘s authentic hillbilly and gospel roots than Nashville's fashionable country-pop synthesis.

‘When i started writing. it seemed like my music was coming out more in a country vein than anything else I‘d been exposed to. it was never a conscious decision to steer myself in a particular direction. it was more that the music which had most affected me was by country singers. and that was just naturally the way I went, too. I have a sister who really likes to sing jazz and blues. but this was where my feelings took me.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)

Iris DeMent plays the Main Auditorium. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Sun [9. 7.30pm.

rm— The one woman clan MacDonald

Horse MacDonald makes her Celtic Connections debut with the new hand she has recruited since deciding to go solo last summer. In the middle of rehearsing her new material when we spoke, the singer was the first to admit that the whole situation may seem a tad confusing for the growing legions of Horse fans out there.

‘ihe idea of going solo probably

llorse: going solo

seems odd to people, because I “am” llorse, but for the first two albums, liorse has been me and my song- writing partner, Angela McAlinden. We had been working together for about nineteen years, and I felt it was time for a change - there is an element in that of trying to discover what my own thing is, rather than the collective situation that I’ve been used to.’ I

The move will mean that llorse will now write her own lyrics. She largely supplied the melodies to Angela McAlinden’s words, and feels that change alone will automatically mean that the songs will take on a different flavour and emphasis. ‘Some of the songs I’m using this time are co-writes with Angela, but others are completely new songs of

my own,’ she says. ‘I think the main difference is probably that my lyrics are more directly about feelings, while Angela tends to find imagery, and bones them down more finely. ‘People will wonder what the difference is going to be, given that it’s the same voice and it’s still my melodies, but maybe the music is a little bit more contemporary, and with a little bit more groove - I’ve got a percussionist and two backing singers, which I’ve never had before. ‘I feel as if I suddenly jumped off the edge of a cliff, but it’s very exciting, and I’m having to think harder about what I really want now, rather than reacting out of habit a lot of the time.’ (Kenny Mathieson)

Horse plays The Fruibnarket, Glagow Fri 17 Jan, 9.30pm.

18 The List l0-23 Jan 1997