Artist: Eliza Gilkyson

Title: Beautiful World

Label: Red House Records

By Rex Butters

eliza_gilkyson_beatiful_world_375.jpg On her new CD Beautiful World, Eliza Gilkyson lets go with her jitters and assurances on our times and the times to come. Her first new studio recording in 3 years, she still writes a line that cracks like a whip with rhythm and meaning delivered with catchy music and an expressive voice that's a pleasure to have in the ear. These are songs you can't get out of your head, and you're glad they've nested there.

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The collection opens with a spring morning walk on Emerald Street, Gilkyson on National Steel. Sun shines and the air smells sweet/little birdies go tweet tweet tweet/all because I'm in love, she coos intimately. But before you think she's gone soft, she opens up her voice to front a horn section and explain, whole world's goin up in smoke/hard times comin,' I ain't jokin/just tryin to keep my heart wide open. Disclaimer out of the way, she returns to her joyful walk, whistling licks with a slippery guitar sliding around like a dragon fly. Wildewood Spring's fiddle, guitar, and cittern frame an invitation to urbanites to catch a breath of fresh air. Like a picture in a locket, a sad love story hides inside till the end.

The Party's Over chronicles the after effects of too good a time, and includes the Zevonish, the party's over, we had a blast/brought in the lawyers to cover our ass. Although, within the context of the CDs social commentary, it may be a metaphor for our world. Julie Wolf warms the mix with her honey Hammond oozing through the strings. The first song written for this project, the Great Correction, rides on an interlocking rhyme scheme of aaab cccb, opening with down here on the corner of ruin and grace/I'm growin weary of the human race/hold my lamp up in everyone's face/looking for an honest man. Vivid and concise observational lyrics give way to ensemble playing of the song with Tony Gilkyson's guitar nearly slick as a steel vining through the melody.

Ideas of identity, personal and public, inspires Clever Disguise. A lovely group arrangement fleshed out with hammond, accordian, 12 string and 6 string guitars, bass, suitcase, percussion, and T.Gilkyson's sweet singing electric serves the graceful lyric. On the very funny Dream Lover, the narrative voice belongs to a young porno queen whose highly detailed adventures verge on the Dylanesque, despite her three times averring, I don't want to talk about it. Robbie Gjersoe's rough slide guitar adds the right raw sting. A love song both earthy and etheric, He Waits For Me drifts easily on an understated string arrangement, including plucked pianos strings.

Written a few years earlier, Runaway Train could have been a perfect Johnny Cash vehicle. On Gilkyson's Super Chief, no driver showed up, but everyone has a good enough time onboard that nothing else matters. Well, almost everyone: Sleepy riders don't want to wake/or suffer the shock when they put on the brake/don't want to question, don't want to complain/rather keep riding on this runaway train. Mike Hardwick and David Grissom's dueling lead guitars sound the sparks off the wheels.

The title track with its layered keyboards seems like a mantra, or spell. Beautiful world, Gilkyson repeats again and again in plaintive minor, between brief simple examples of natural wonder. Rare Bird tries to delicately handle the reluctant end of a relationship. The set closes with Unsustainable, a song that sounds like a 1950s jazz love song, but instead creatively states some green facts. Gilkyson's delivery changes dramatically, with all grit, growl, and frayed edges patched into a smooth smiling voice more typical of this genre. It opens a window on the subtlety of her vocal talents. Cindy Cashdollar's pedal steel curls like smoke around Gilkyson's voice.

With her affirmation, Still got hope in this heart of mine, from When Great Correction Comes, Eliza Gilkyson has the strength to bravely look the beast in the face and remain optimistic.

Poet and Journalist Rex Butters has been published for over thirty years in magazines as diverse as BAM, Rapport, LA Free Press, All About Jazz, Free Venice Beachhead, Caffeine, and Brain Vomit