War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. June Tabor ... No Man's Land
Song of the Day: Doonan Family Band ... I'll Tell Me Ma/Route 66

Cover Story: (3) Our Town - Iris DeMent or Kate Rusby


August 2021 update: we were in the car after picking up daughter and granddaughter at Marseille airport.
Maya, nearly 13, demanded her usual fix of Jain CDs and then Kate Rusby's Hand Me Down, superior covers of pop songs. She steadfastly resisted maternal and grandmaternal jibes about the 'cruise music', 'karaoke' and 'lift muzac' and declared Kate to be one of her additional mums. I reckon she'd also love this (but either Kate or Iris DeMent) and will test my theory while she's here with us ...

Click anywhere on this caption to buy this outstanding Iris DeMent album from Salut! Live's Amazon record shelf

Confession time. I once wrote that Iris DeMent had "unusual, wailing vocals" that initially brought to mind an animal in distress.

But even that sarky putdown, way back in 1993, was in the context of a positive review.

I had found, against my own expectation, much to admire in her album Infamous Angel. DeMent, I concluded, suggested "a likably unpretentious woman who can write with affection about real people and places, and think up real tunes".

One such song and tune was Our Town and that is the subject of this instalment of the new Salut! Live series, Cover Story.

Put simply, do we prefer DeMent's superb original or the cover, also superb, by Kate Rusby?


I could and should research more deeply but have never been sure whether DeMent's simple tribute to her home town was inspired by Paragould, Arkansas, where she was born, or Cypress, California, where she grew up. 2021 update: Wikipedia says she came up with the song after "driving through a boarded-up Midwest town" and I believe I have seen it narrowed down to a particular state but cannot remember which.

Rusby, on the other hand, can only be singing - surely - about her beloved Barnsley. She makes it sounds as if she wrote it.


If I am honest, I am torn.

DeMent's rendition of her own song tugs at the heart strings. There is nothing to fault. Rusby would tear at the heart strings if she put the South Yorkshire yellow pages to music.

The YouTube audience heavily favours DeMent - two million visits (to the main clip on YouTube when I first posted this item and it's grown to 3.3m) against 200,000 then for Kate's and still under 260,000 now.

So I shall sit on the fence. Two fabulous versions of the same wonderful song. Feel free to say what you feel ...


Click anywhere on this caption to buy Kate Rusby's album Sleepless, containing her gorgeous version of Our Town at Salut! Live's Amazon record shelf


Joan Dawson

Both are lovely. If I had to vote it'd be Kate's for me - I prefer the slower tempo, the English, more traditional sound to the Americana sound but it's purely personal taste.

Pete Sixsmith

Iris DeMent for me - but both are canny versions.....

Gervase Webb

The Rusby is lovely, a big slice of parkin; warming and comforting.
But DeMent's goes straight for the heart. For me hers is the only version. Props to Kate and her fabulous voice, but hers doesn't have the punch and plangency.

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