Rhinestone trash like the [B]Dixie Chicks[/B] may get the corporate spend, but [B]Iris DeMent[/B] is the diamond among the Nashgirl makeweights...

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London South Bank Royal Festival Hall


London South Bank Royal Festival Hall

Rhinestone trash like the Dixie Chicks may get the corporate spend, but Iris DeMent is the diamond among the Nashgirl makeweights. She talks like Jimmy Stewart after a night on crack, but her singing voice soars higher than a migrating swallow, offering deliverance on ‘My Morning Comes Around’ and negotiating the vicissitudes of art and relationships on the deliciously precarious ‘Slow Is The Melody’. She can sound like a young girl in the flush of first love one minute, a wizened old lady gazing into the valley of death the next. Astonishing.

Recovered “from a little bout with the cancer”, John Prine’s voice is a rasping fog issuing spitball sermons. The drummerless double bass and guitar set-up suits his unerring perception, steely irony and finely detailed sadness just fine – better than the records.

A songwriting giant since the early-’70s, in recent years Prine has provided fuel for both the Primals and Spiritualized. Tonight, he tends classics like ‘Angel From Montgomery’, ‘Jesus The Missing Years’ and the definitive vet-drug-casualty composition ‘Sam Stone’ as if they were newborn babes.

Iris joins for a few duets from the new ‘In Spite Of Ourselves’ album but it’s Prine’s own ‘I Wasn’t Hurting No-one’ and ‘Peaceful Waters’ reserved ’til the end that bath us in crystal fire and confirm his genius. One a psychodrama where he faces his fate with steely menace, the other a meditation on murder, violence and destruction. Unassailable.