Iris DeMent’s music has always been a little churchy: The singer-songwriter’s debut album, 1992’s Infamous Angel, opens with an almost childlike ditty about faith and the hereafter, “Let the Mystery Be,” and rare is the DeMent lyric that doesn’t hark back to home truths about God and family. That early tune also takes a swipe at demagogues, though, and between “Wasteland of the Free,” one of the smartest protest songs of the past 20 years, and “In Spite of Ourselves,” a bawdy duet with John Prine, it’d be simplistic to peg her as a Christian artist. Which makes it all the more strange that her most recent album remains 2004’s Lifeline, a collection of spirituals mostly written by others. Recent interviews suggest she’s at peace with her writer’s block, which, however unfortunate, still leaves her with three albums’ worth of crystalline, empathetic country-folk songs, and a gorgeous, pleading voice with which to sing them.
IRIS DEMENT PERFORMS WITH JASON WILBUR AT 7:30 P.M. AT THE BIRCHMERE, 3701 MT. VERNON AVE., ALEXANDRIA. $35. (703) 549-7500.