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May 18, 2006

YouTube for the Day

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

As yet, there isn't much hippie-redneck folk/country footage to watch on YouTube -- nothing like the amount of early rock there is, for instance. Here's a wonderfully-unadorned performance of "Pancho and Lefty" by Townes Van Zandt. But where are the clips of Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, James McMurtry, Delbert McClinton, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore? For the moment, I'm contenting myself with this heartbreakingly harsh/sweet performance of "Our Town" by Iris Dement, backed by Emmylou Harris.

When I first heard Iris Dement, I was put off by her plainspoken girlishness, and by the cornpone-and-gingham astringency in her voice. But my resistance lasted, oh, about a minute; somewhere during that first song I found myself so touched by it that I started to sniffle. Now I'm a full-fledged Iris addict. Those dimples ... That slight overbite ... Those frowns of concentration ... The way her feelings pass over her face like cloud-shadows over a landscape ... Wouldn't Robert Altman's camera just eat this girl up?

If Iris Dement's songwriting and singing get to you, you might enjoy this CD, and maybe this one too.



UPDATE: YouTube embedded clips are balky for the moment, darn it. But you can still watch Iris' performance by going here. And a bonus link: a lovely "I'll Be Your San Antone Rose" by Emmylou Harris. Good lord, that pure-angel voice of Emmylou's ... Where can such a perfect vocal instrument have come from? Son of a gun, here's Lyle Lovett performing "I've Been to Memphis" and "That's Right, You're Not From Texas."

UPDATE 2: Oh, the hell with it. I've deleted the misbehaving YouTube player in this posting, and have supplied the usual-style URL links to the video clips I write about ...

posted by Michael at May 18, 2006


The Townes item is as plain and rough as a bare, weathered plank. In a good way.

The Iris song is very nice. Emmylou doing "I'll be your San Antone Rose" is, I think, even better. I like her little nod to Bob Wills, a smiling "ah hah!" at the end.

Too bad there is nothing on You Tube by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys yet.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 18, 2006 4:40 PM

Some good Neko Case on there. I should upload her Austin City Limits performance, which is fantastic.

Posted by: the patriarch on May 18, 2006 5:44 PM

Ach! Emmylou is perfection! Thanks for the confection.

Posted by: communicatrix on May 18, 2006 7:33 PM

Nice clips, Michael.

I don't know quite what to think about Iris. Her voice is interesting and great for her material, but speaking of that material . . . I like the sound, the lyrics, everything -- but there's something that's always struck me as forced in Iris's intensely nostalgic vision. It's as if she woke up one morning when she was 25 and was in a full-blown-55-year-old's mid-life crisis just like that!

Maybe it's because I'm a small-town boy myself that I get suspicious when other small-town kids seem to be trying too hard to fit in with their more sophisticated big-city peers. It's one of the reasons Garrison Keillor has always fascinated and repelled me simultaneously. I smell the whiff of the same coming off Iris sometimes. It's as if the only safe way to sing/write about small towns and rural life, while still appealing to the sophisticates at the same time, is to introduce this nostalgic distance from that life. Can't be seen to be taking it too seriously; you might be outed as a NASCAR fan.

And then again perhaps I'm just a cranky idiot who's too self-conscious about these things himself!

Mr Tall

PS: Iris and Emmylou are both great singers, great voices, but nobody touches Alison Krauss!

Posted by: mr tall on May 18, 2006 9:00 PM

Double PS: Doesn't Iris look very much like Geena Davis in one of her better incarnations? I agree she's lovely to watch, too.

Posted by: mr tall on May 18, 2006 9:03 PM

Whoa, now...once this Kraus kid has 30 more years of work in her portfolio, we might then be able to determine her ranking viz Emmylou.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 19, 2006 9:32 AM

I've listened to that Iris song about six times. Compare it to the studio version also on You Tube. I like the live one better. It is more folksy or something. She does some things with her voice on the live one that are smoothed off in the studio version. Both are good but the live one is nicer.

I also agree that Iris has a bit of the NPRish Lake Wobegone shtick going on. But she sings so sincere and all, I forgive even that.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 19, 2006 10:29 PM

Good on you, Michael! Let's hope you've turned a lot of people on to Iris DeMent! I've been dead keen on her for years. She has a sweet, slightly childish yet powerful voice, and has written some truly first-class songs (e.g., "When My Morning Comes Around").

Her only weakness is an occasional tendency to descend into mawkish confessional mode ... generally, though, she's mastered the art of lyrics that are personal without being autobiographical.

Another disc or two and she's likely to be the proverbial overnight success after 15 years.

Posted by: Rick Darby on May 20, 2006 6:06 PM

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