Eliza Gilkyson—Home

2023, Realiza


Eliza Gilkyson has been traveling the troubadour road since 1979, yet she’s not just “still around.” She’s a revelation every time she performs, collaborates or puts out new music. Her songs are ripe with images and phrases that give you goosebumps as she sings them into your heart. Her voice, always a dusty alto, has never sounded better, ready to get the most out of her poetic songs. Gilkyson’s recent albums have commented on the state of the world as it spins from disaster to hope and Home is well aware of the world, but it is more about where the heart is. As usual, there is attention to detail in the varied arrangements, with the vocals always front and center. The first track, “True North,” is typical of the care given to the production and arrangement. It accumulates a guitar, fiddle and harmony vocals on top of the opening pluck of a banjo, building the mood without burying the lyrics. Her duet with Robert Earl Keen, “How Deep,” asks the “did I?” questions appropriate to a long back catalogue of life. “Did I dance did I sing/ Did I do everything/ I promised myself I’d try to do./ Did I follow my heart/ Finish what I started/ Pay attention to the music coming through… And most of all, how deep did I love.” To say the least, these two have what it takes to sing such a song. “Sunflowers” is a song commissioned by Craig Hella Johnson for the internationally acclaimed, Grammy-winning choral ensemble, Conspirare. It is inspired by the Ukrainian people, for whom the sunflower has long been a symbol of peace. Such an assignment could have produced a more anthemic song, but taken without any other context, “Sunflowers” is a personal appreciation of the normal, peaceful things in life like “roses round the gate,” “simple gifts of kindness/ and the blessing of more time,” and sunflowers. “Witness” is a gorgeous grown up love song, sensual and spiritual, as complete as the new discovery of old love. She lists the many lovely things she appreciates about her lover, including “The way you hear me out when you know I’m hurting/ You’re the compassionate one.” Not exactly kids stuff! Also notable is the cinematic “Man in a Bottle,” a multi-part tribute to her father featuring bits of his music. The music shifts smoothly as different singers transition the song from scene to scene. Home is a perfect amalgam of textures, rhythms and poetry illuminated by long experience, easily one of the best albums of Gilkyson’s excellent oeuvre. She has been nominated for Grammys in the past… maybe this time? —Michael Devlin

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