Southern Fried

Rodney Crowell/Iris Dement

Perth Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

IRIS Dement’s courageous comment to The Herald’s Rob Adams this month that American “evangelicals” had deserted Christ for Trump was politically provocative and precise, but it is necessary to hear her music to know how pertinent and personal as well.

Her songs may have become modern country standards but she is steeped in gospel music, and that always comes across when she sits at the piano, the onstage location that suits her best. Her set here included both Let The Mystery Be and The Night I Learned How Not To Pray early on as well as her Arkansas Delta Blues tributes to her late, and faithful, mother like The Kingdom Has Already Come.

I would guess that the Trump-voting country constituency gets less from Dement’s thoughtful song-writing than from Rodney Crowell’s tales of broken relationships and self-inflicted wounds, but she has still been happy to let the senior craftsperson dictate the shape of the evening so that he appeared first, even after a delayed train puts the whole evening back. “I’m happy to get to hear Rodney Crowell,” she tells us, “you guys have just been squeezed in on the deal.”

Crowell, for his part is happy to fulfil an engagement be was contracted to play at 2017’s Southern Fried. “My body failed me last year,” he said, “this year I’m glad it was just the trains”

He is hardly a picture of health, but the voice and the guitar playing are on the best of form, including his classic reading of Walter Davis’s Come Back Baby and opening with the local interest of Glasgow Girl from the Outsider album of 2005. Crowell is flanked by two real country music outsiders, now domiciled in Nashville: London Irish violinist Eamon McLoughlin, now house fiddler at the Grand Ole Opry, and whizz-kid Australian guitarist Joe Robinson, whose astonishing party-piece solo of Somewhere Over The Rainbow Crowell takes a seat to enjoy.