<p>Iris DeMent. <i>Flariella</i>

A lack of original material is the only disappointing thing about Iris DeMent’s first album in eight years. The beautiful Lifeline features old-time gospel favorites, but, as DeMent herself writes in the notes, “These songs aren’t about religion.” Instead, “Blessed Assurance,” “That Glad Reunion Day,” and other tracks offer a promise: that simple perseverance can put trouble on the run. And DeMent has never sounded better. The twang in her voice gives a hard edge to these hopeful tales, while lovely pianos, acoustic guitars, and Dobros sweeten the notes. Lifeline triumphs by meeting sadness head-on.