A Review of the Eliza Gilkyson CD
"Land of Milk and Honey"

"Land of Milk and Honey"
by Eliza Gilkyson

Copyright 2004
Red House records
P.O. Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104

http://www.elizagilkyson.com and

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Eliza Gilkyson has always mused on the internal, probing the human catacombs to various depths in her many releases. With her latest, she again goes inside and excavates, unearthing understanding, insights and yes, a few scars, earned through ricocheting on life's gameboard. Her discoveries bounce among the painful, the exuberant, the caustic and the vulnerable.

Even in her songs about world events and figures, she burrows in on the troika of needs, desires and motivations.

In "Hiway 9," the opening cut, Gilkyson castigates the invasion of Iraq. She goes from soup to nuts, singing about oil, fulfilling scripture, Hell, neo-cons, spin, Colin Powell, Clear Channel and the 9/11 Trade Center terrorism. Interestingly, it is the words that snarl rather than the presentation, which is serene.

"Not Lonely" is a philosophical 'who I am' creed of personal independence put to music.

"Dark Side of Town" is the biography of an individual with a taste for anything and everything, seeking fulfillment via a life map that green lights any wish or hankering.

"Tender Mercies" and "Ballad of Yvonne Johnson" are the two most compelling offerings. Contrasting female suicide bombers and children playing in an unbeknownst poisoned pool of factory waste with the comfortable safety of children in other parts of the world, Gilkyson concludes the former with the chorus:

"...Tender mercies, tender mercies, come before despair
shine down all your tender mercies
it's every mother's prayer"

In the latter is the most visceral writing. Gilkyson and co-writer Yvonne Johnson detail Johnson's life from the sexual abuse endured as a child to a painful marriage and finally her actions that resulted in a death, producing a subsequent sentence of life imprisonment. Gilkyson, as Johnson, sings:

"...first memory of my brother Leon, I was only three
he threw me on the table, forced himself inside of me"

She informs her father of the violation, who then mercilessly repeats the act.

At song's conclusion, she asks for forgiveness with the hope that her story will assist others and become part of a greater effort in ending cycles of violence.

"Wonderland" and "Separated" inhabit different parts of the relationship spectrum. "Wonderland" embraces acting on and enjoying simple physical attraction, period, while "Separated" twines the yin of passionate love with the yang of painful parting when the flame flickers towards extinguishment.

Gilkyson's inclusion of "Runnin Away," a clever story depicting the nature of survival, is a salute to her late father, Terry Gilkyson, the song's author.

Backed solely by piano, Gilkyson's "Milk and Honey" is a poetic look at the tomfoolery of mankind's many preposterous strivings.

"Peace Call" is an obscure Woody Guthrie composition and a fitting conclusion to the release, featuring verses sung by Gilkyson, Patty Griffin, Iris Dement and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

This release will deservedly land on many of best of 2004 lists. Eliza Gilkyson has crafted a compilation where each selection is worthy and deserving of mention. How rare that is.

* The liner notes indicate this release is dedicated to Al, to which this interpreter guesses as the late, lamented Al Grierson, who drowned in a Texas flash flood in 2000. Eliza, roses and thanks for remembering. especially if I'm correct.

Gilkyson, on vocals, acoustic guitar, national steel guitar and piano is backed by Patty Griffin on vocals; Iris Dement on vocals; Mary Chapin Carpenter on vocals; Slaid Cleaves on vocal harmony; Jon Dee Graham on electric guitar and vocal harmony; Stephen Bruton on vocal harmony; Cordelia Castillo on vocal harmony; Mark Hallman on vocal harmony, tone tube, tambourine and nylon string guitar; Glenn Fukunaga on bass and upright bass; Bukka Allen on accordion and harmonium; Brian Standefer on cello; Rob Gjersoe on dobro and national steel guitar; Cisco Ryder on drums and percussion; Mike Hardwick on electric guitar; Rich Brotherton on cittern, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Steven Zirkel on trumpet; Scotty McIntosh on saxophone; Raul Vallejo on trombone; Fats Kaplan on fiddle and Jane Gillman on dulcimer.

Track List:

All songs written by Eliza Gilkyson, except as noted.

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