The daughter of folksinger and songwriter Terry Gilkyson, Eliza Gilkyson is a third generation musician. As a teenager in Los Angeles, she recorded demos for her dad, who wrote the hits Marianne and Memories Are Made of This, among others. Eliza is now living in Austin, Texas, and has just released her ninth album of original material, Land Of Milk And Honey.
Eliza Gilkyson opens Land Of Milk And Honey with a country sounding anti-war song called Hiway 9. Eliza explains why she decided to place the strong political upfront, instead of placing it later on the record, where it might not pack such power. After all, with it as the first cut, she runs the risk of immediately turning off a listener who does not share her political sensibilities.
"I didn't want to stand idly by. I think this is an important year," she said. "I'd love to write songs about me, but right now I wanted to set it aside. I wanted to go on record at this point in my life as having a stand, telling the truth as I see it. I wanted to talk about the truth in relationships, the truth in politics and what I see happening in the world right now. So I see this as a topical CD and I'm going to stand by it."
While some of the songs on this CD deal with political issues, there are some personal stories as well. Dark Side of Town, written by Eliza and her sister Nancy Gilkyson, is the tale of a recovering alcoholic-addict drifter who settled down and became a good friend to both the women.
In addition to performing her own material when on tour, Eliza has spent the past two years singing the songs of American folk pioneer Woody Guthrie as part of a group that includes Woody's granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie, Jimmy LaFave and Slaid Cleaves. Eliza believes Guthrie's music is as timely today as when it was written.
"The guy really, really spoke his truth at a time when it was not popular to do that," she said.
After singing Woody Guthrie's songs on stage, Eliza Gilkyson decided she wanted to record one. Woody's sister Nora Guthrie opened his archives to the songwriter.
"He had written over 2,000 songs at the time of his death, and only, I think, 600 of them were ever noted by other artists," she said. "So, there's a huge catalog of undiscovered material in the archives. And I knew what I wanted. I wanted a song that was really timely. We were just starting to go to the war in Iraq and, lo and behold, here in this songbook was this fabulous song called Peace Call. He wrote in 1951, sang it into a microphone, sent it to his publisher, and it never saw the light of day since it was in that book. No one ever recorded it. We did some research and found that it was truly and undiscovered Woody Guthrie song. I recorded it with Iris Dement, Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Patty Griffin. When you hear it, you'll think we were all in the room together, but none of us ever were in the same room together. I had to send it out with a rough sketch of each person's part. But each one of them just did an incredible job. When we put it all together, my hair just stood up! It sounds like we were all there with our arms around each other!"
If you're not already familiar with Eliza Gilkyson's music, Land Of Milk And Honey is a good place to start. Her music is a must for any fan of mature, intelligent songwriting.