Iris Dement Sings with Montclair Church

Iris Dement played at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montclair. The proceeds went to the organization to aid in their charity work. After the show, Dement signed CDs and posed for pictures with fans.

Iris Dement sings Delta.

The Unitarian Church was filled to capacity, each seat taken up and standing room reduced to huddling against the walls as Iris Dement took the stage.

© Jiří Novotný | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The first standing ovation of the night broke out as she came out of the back room doors. Because of the heat, the large church windows were open on either side of the room, creating a brisk draft through the room that helped carry each note.

Iris Dement kicked off her set with “The Way I Should,” a rolling autumn-themed country tune that featured her on the acoustic guitar and lead vocals.

This type of intimate folk music is not always music you bob your head or tap your feet to. It is music that is sometimes best enjoyed with your eyes closed. Looking out amongst the audience, it seemed as though many of the members were in a sort of trance, rocking slowly back forth in time with the bouncing bass.

Her next song “Let The Mystery Be” was met with cheers as she sang the first opening notes. The song lyrics explored the larger questions in life: “Everyone’s wondering what and where they all came from.”

Iris Dement moved on to the piano for the next part of her set. She was flanked on either side by the two other members of her trio.

Jon Graboff served as the jack of all trades in the three pieces. Dement described him as a steel pedal player, joking that he “learned guitar at sound check.” He also accompanied Dement on mandolin.

What really tied the trio together was the bass styling of Kyle Kegerreis. The tone of his bass filled out the sound of each song. He added a personal touch to the traditional bouncing lines found in most country tunes.

The trio moved through a very organic sounding set. The trio flowed seamlessly from folk-waltz tunes like “The Kingdom Has Already Come” and “Faller,” to driving country-side hits like “Go Ahead and Go Home” and the title track of her most recent album, “Sing the Delta.”

Iris Dement, a true veteran of the stage, had a natural rapport with the audience, saying at one point: “I don’t feel like an entertainer.” This caused sincere laughter to ring out through the rafters; she had just played beautifully, transcending the simple epithet of entertainer.

Iris Dement is an extremely honest and humble artist, and though she may be feeling her age (saying after the show, “I don’t feel too young”) her voice is still nubile and healthy, and it floating through the rafters in a precious, lifting tone.

Audience members relished a chance to see Dement in an intimate setting. Marie Mancl, Dement fan and attendee, related to the song “The Night I Learned How Not To Pray,” saying, “[It’s about] her finding her spirituality, and that’s how I felt in my life. It’s great to hear these songs live.”

Gail Prusslin, an Outpost in the Burbs Trustee Board Member, loved the close contact that the church venue offers. “Her songs are beautifully written, and this place is perfect for them.”

Prusslin takes videos and pictures at each Outpost in The Burbs concert, which can be viewed on their Facebook.

Look for Iris Dement at upcoming concerts in Hudson, N.Y.,  and Ephrata, Penn.

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