gospel grass: Iris Dement on True Grit Soundtrack & Red Mountain’s All Things New

Iris Dement

Over the long weekend I got to see True Grit, the (somewhat) new Coen Bros western that features a soundtrack with a number of songs by their longtime composer Carter Burwell. The Coens famously worked with T-Bone Burnett to produce the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack – the album that sparked a bluegrass revival in 2000 – to which Burwell added a few scores.

For True Grit, the Coens wanted to play 19th Century hymns that the lead character, Mattie, would have sung at church. Burwell’s score of the old gospel song “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms,” is featured in the background throughout the film and in the closing credits . It was composed in 1888 by Anthony Showalter, an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dalton, Georgia, and used memorably in the 1955 film The Night of the Hunter – a film that has heavily influenced contemporary directors like the Coens and Martin Scorsese. During True Grit, the track, which is still sung in many churches today, is instrumental, but the credits feature the vocals of Iris Dement, a longtime country singer who has regularly performed with John Prine and was featured on several tracks from his popular 1999 album In Spite of Ourselves. Dement’s voice is raw country and transcends time. She has released a number of albums in the last two decades. Lifeline her most recent  album of gospel songs that includes “Leaning” was released in 2004 is classic. Great album. Great movie. The Coens are the best. Check out the track here…


Also recently released on the respectable Gospel front that music snobs can tolerate is a new album by the good folks at Red Mountain Church in Birmingham. Red Mountain is famous for artistic Americana renditions of old hymns (some of which have never been put to music). The new album, All Things New, features a good mix of memorable mellow tracks with contributing musicians like Thad Cockrell and Ashley Spurling. Definitely worth checking out. The tracks “Spread Thy Wings” and “Come Dearest Lord” stand out to me.