March 31

Our Town


Iris Dement was born in Arkansas in a dinky town not too far from Little Rock.  At age 3 or 4 her family moved to Long Beach, California where she grew up.  She decided to become a singer and song writer and had a tough a time making it in a brutal business despite possessing what I consider a huge talent and a unique voice.
She finally broke through with this hit, Our Town.  Here is a video of her.  Listen to the voice.  It’s all Arkansas without a touch of Long Beach in it.  In fact, it’s proof positive that you can take the girl out of Arkansas but you can’t take Arkansas out of the girl.
If you’ve never heard (nor heard of) Iris Dement, you’re in for a treat.

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  1. Five or six years ago I was driving around the farming country of Western PA looking for a used manure spreader. It was near to Mother’s Day and a local radio station was playing “Mother’s Day” songs. Nestled in a five song set was Iris Dement’s “Mama’s Opry” – I cried on the spot. The song is on her Infamous Angel album (along with “Our Town”). Amazon has the CD.
    Philip Thackray
    Hi Philip–
    I had much the same experience with another of her songs, Sweet is the Melody.  The song isn’t even all that poignant, it’s her voice that gets to me.

  2. Wonderful! Thanks, Doc, it WAS a treat. Love that voice!
    On the strength of this video, I hopped on and dowloaded her “Infamous Angel” album, that this is from. Terrific stuff.
    Interesting about her accent. Kind of confirms what I’ve read, that you tend to keep the accent that you first learned English in. And not just in your house, but in your neighborhood.
    Hi John–
    Glad you enjoyed it.  I think I’ll download the album, too. 

  3. I’ve been listening to Iris DeMent for years and didn’t know (or remember) that she was from Arkansas. I’d once heard her voice described as like that of a wild bird. My favorite album is called My Life(1994), but let the listener beware, it’s likely to jerk tears, or as a friend of mine might say, it will leave you “blubbering”.
    PS As I dig out the cd I notice pictures from and liner notes about the early days in Arkansas.
    Hi James–
    She is indeed from Arkansas, a good place to be ‘from.’ (Note the emphasis on the word from.)


  4. Dr Mike, I live in Long Beach and it’s a good little city. It’s known as “Iowa by the sea” because so many Midwesterners moved here for all the new industries at the start of the last century, and especially after the Depression. So it’s no surprise that it would be easy for Iris to retain her roots!
    Hi LC–
    I didn’t know that about Long Beach.  Thanks for contributing to my education.  My only experiences at Long Beach were many trips to the Long Beach Pike with my buddies.  Does the Pike still exist?



  5. No, not as you remember it. There is now the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Convention Center, A huge Borders Bookstore, etc. Pine Street is THE place to be– a place to stroll with the best restaurants to walk into. The Queen Mary is again a place to go eat or drink at one of the bars, and it has both young and old clientèle. I’ve lived there for seventeen years, and at the outset everything downtown was run down. Now it’s all been prettified, and it’s been very good for the city.
    Hi LC–
    It almost sounds too gentrified for me now.  I can’t believe the old Pike is gone.  Sigh.  I spent many wonderful hours there.
    Thanks for the update.

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