Eliza Gilkyson,
Land of Milk & Honey
(Red House, 2004)

Her father wrote songs such as "The Bare Necessities" for Disney's The Jungle Book and "Memories are Made of This," and Eliza Gilkyson is living proof that talent is genetic. On this CD she offers eight original compositions and two covers that could pass as new songs.

This is hardly surprising from a lady who is the third generation in a musical family that always expected her to enter the business. But she is not a typical songwriter carrying a tradition. Her songs have a very distinct social and often political message.

Her concern for others is very much to the fore on the deeply disturbing but essentially beautiful track, "Ballad of Yvonne Johnson." This story song lasts for just under seven minutes but it tells us more about the dark side of modern life than many books, articles or documentaries. It is worth the cost of the album just to hear the tale and the writing talent combined. "Dark Side of Town" is yet another excellent song telling a story that will hold your attention to the final line.

She gives a beautiful version of a song written by her father, Terry, on "Runnin' Away." This sounds just like a piece from a Disney movie and lets us hear a different side of this great performer. She keeps it in the family on "Tender Mercies," where her son and daughter join her on harmony to great effect showing that a fourth generation of good music is a very real possibility.

The CD closes with a piece of history that is also a great song. "Peace Call" was written by the legendary Woodie Guthrie way back in the early 1950s. It was sent to a publisher and languished for a decade before it appeared in a songbook in 1963. Then it disappeared again, only to be found by Eliza in the out-of-print book borrowed from Woodie's daughter Nora. Eliza has revived a lovely song at a very timely period in history, and Patty Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Iris Dement join her on the production.

The insert contains the lyrics and the cover features a classic shot, which unlike so many cover pictures, illustrates the theme of the album; it shows a boy diving into a waste plant tank to swim.

This album is a jewel, by a force to be reckoned with in contemporary music. You get 10 tracks but among them are at least three that are alone worth the price of the CD.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 12 June 2004

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