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Iris Dement and Loudon Wainwright III at the Space at Westbury

May 11th, 2016

Singer-songwriter Iris Dement grew up singing gospel music before discovering country and folk music in her teens. She began writing her own songs in her 20s and then kicked around Nashville for years before finally making a huge splash when her debut album, Infamous Angel (stream it below), arrived when she was 42. “A remarkable debut, Infamous Angel established Iris DeMent as one of the greatest artists of her generation,” said AllMusic. “With her gift for poignant, confessional songwriting and a voice that makes raw beauty seem like a brand new thing, she invokes the elemental magic of the Carter Family while sounding as fresh and modern as John Prine (who, not surprisingly, is one of her biggest champions).” She’s since dueted with the likes of Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle and has been featured on countless other musicians’ albums. But Dement (above, performing “Momma Was Always Tellin’ Her Truth”) still makes time to record. Last year, she composed to accompany poems by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova on her sixth full-length, The Trackless Woods. “Recorded in her living room, with her harsh-edged vocals backed by her own piano work and occasional help from a band including guitar hero Leo Kottke, this is a quietly powerful triumph,” according to the Guardian.

Loudon Wainwright III, a humorist, actor and, most notably, singer-songwriter, has been putting out high-quality folk music since his self-titled debut full-length (stream it below), often referred to as Album 1, came out in 1970. And he’s been pretty busy ever since, appearing in movies and TV shows, contributing to soundtracks and folk compilations, releasing singles and live albums, and, of course, cranking out original material. Wainwright (above, doing “Haven’t Got the Blues Yet”) put out his 23rd studio LP, Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet) (stream it below), in 2014. “Like most folk artists, the temper of the musical times has not affected his work in the slightest over the past 40-plus years since he arrived on the scene. His lyrical outlook is as arch and rueful as ever, and the music surrounding it dips into his familiar world of ’20s-style hot jazz, solo acoustic quietude and country-blues shuffle,” per Paste magazine. “The only thing that has shifted a little bit is the subject of his charming, heartfelt tunes.” And while it would be great to be able to see one of these very accomplished performers, Iris Dement and Loudon Wainwright III play the Space at Westbury on Thursday night.