Iris DeMent's self-released album pays tribute to Wynette
Perhaps the unlikeliest vote-getter in this year's Country Music Critics' Poll was Iris DeMent, a singer-songwriter who hadn't released an album of original songs in 16 years and no album of any kind in eight. She has never had a single nor an album on the country charts, despite being described by Merle Haggard as "the best singer I've ever heard," and despite releasing two albums on Warner Bros. in the mid-'90s.
When DeMent finally released Sing the Delta, an album of new songs, in 2012, it was issued not by Warner Bros. but rather by her own tiny Flariella label. Enough critics heard it, however, to vote the record 2012's No. 3 album and DeMent herself the No. 2 singer, the No. 3 songwriter and the No. 6 artist of the year. Though it was never played by mainstream country radio, there was no disputing the album's country character. It featured the twangiest vocals of any record to garner multiple votes in the poll, and DeMent's singing clearly echoed the sound of her own favorite singer.
"Tammy Wynette was just the greatest country singer there ever was," DeMent tells the Scene via phone from her home in Iowa City. "There was a quality to her voice on songs like 'Apartment No. 9' like there was no filter between you and her rawest emotions. She had an amazing range; she could go from low note to high note like there wasn't anything in between. She could sing very soft, and then have the next note come through like a bus. I just felt a lot coming off her."
Read more about Tammy's influence on Iris in Nashville Scene!