Grammy nominated and indie favorite singer/songwriter Iris DeMent and her band will help ring in 120 music and culture-filled years at the Camden Opera House Friday, Aug. 1, at 7:30 p.m.

The 120th anniversary of the downtown opera house is being celebrated with a series of The Best of the Best of the Past concerts, in keeping with Camden Opera House’s annually receiving a Best of the Best venue award from VillageSoup readers. Songs will be featured from Dement’s new album, “Sing the Delta,” as well as favorites from years past.

Dement is the last of 14 children, born in Arkansas and raised in Southern California.    She grew up immersed in gospel and traditional country music. She did not write her first song until she was 25 but when she did, “I knew then and there that I had gotten my calling … The ‘knowing’ has never left me since that day,” she said.

Her first release, “Infamous Angel,” initially issued on Rounder in 1992 before being picked up by Warner Brothers, immediately established her as a promising and talented artist. Its 1994 follow-up, “My Life,” earned a Grammy nomination in the Contemporary Folk category. Her 1996 album “The Way I Should” addressed political as well as personal themes and also earned a Grammy nomination.

Along the way, several of DeMent’s songs became cultural touchstones. “Let The Mystery Be” found its way to “MTV Unplugged” as a duet by David Byrne and Natalie Merchant. “Our Town” was played over the farewell scene in the series finale of “Northern Exposure.” Merle Haggard, who said of DeMent, “She’s the best singer I’ve ever heard,” invited her to sit in as his piano player touring with his legendary band The Strangers. He subsequently covered two of her songs, “No Time To Cry” and the gospel-tinged “The Shores of Jordan.”

General admission tickets are $28 in advance and will be $32 at the door. Advance tickets are available at the Camden Town Office weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; by calling 470-7066; or online at

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or