Gilkyson sings of love and war with equal artistry

By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


September 6, 2005

Eliza Gilkyson
"Paradise Hotel"
Red House Records

It would be easy to label Eliza Gilkyson's new CD an anti-war or anti-Bush album, and it is that; or to label it an album about love, lost or won, and it is that, too.

"Paradise Hotel" is, above all, typical Gilkyson in that it's a poetic, honest album, sweet-sounding but not sugar-coated despite the presence of a lullaby, "Bellarosa," sung in Spanish to her granddaughter.

Gilkyson, as she did in 2004's Grammy-nominated "Land of Milk and Honey," writes about the Iraq war and the occupant of the White House, warning against manipulation in the name of religion in the scathing "Man of God":

"Coalition of the fearful and the judgmental/patricians, politicians, and the fundamentalists/ you never have to tell them how the money's spent/you never have to tell them where their freedom went."

She also tackles the subject from a less literal direction, covering Karl Wallinger's World Party track from a decade ago, "Is It Like Today," in which God plays a role.

And "Jedidiah 1777" looks at another war, from the perspective of a general and a Gilkyson ancestor, the lyrics taken from one of his recently discovered letters.

The country-tinged "Borderline" walks that line over which you fall in love, or at least in lust, while the title song wonders why we spend our lives pursuing unknown pleasures while ignoring what we have.

"Requiem," a prayer for the people of Indonesia written after the tsunami there, is many times more poignant in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

And Gilkyson even makes the prospect of our own mortality seem sweet in the ballad "When You Walk On."

The title "artist" is bestowed on anyone who makes a recording, but in Gilkyson's case it truly applies.