Back in the 1990s, Iris DeMent was rightly considered to be one of the finest singer-songwriters in America. She wrote heart-tugging, country-tinged ballads such as Our Town, and ranked alongside the McGarrigles for her blend of emotion and melody. This is her first album of new material in 16 years, but it sounds as powerful and timeless as anything she has done. The songs are a blend of gospel and country, often driven on by rolling piano work that’s as all-American as Randy Newman, and her voice is equally distinctive, with a harsh-edged twang. But what makes this special is the quality of her songwriting, from the stomping but pained story of bereavement and questioned faith, The Night I Learned How Not to Pray, to the upbeat Go On Ahead and Go Home, and the gloriously sad Morning Glory. Welcome back.