Reviewed for BBC Radio 2 Folk Website and other internet and paper music magazines.
Including All Music Guide (USA) and Maverick (Country Music) UK.
From 1999 -2004 I edited/designed and contributed to the first online review of Americana Music in the U.K.
Read the past issues at
FLYINSHOES is still going strong under Rob Ellen in Scotland…http://flyinshoes.ning.com/
Here a sample review from 2004
Eliza Gilkyson: Land of Milk & Honey 2004
I had not come across Eliza Gilkyson before witnessing a superb performance at The Maze Nottingham last year. Well supported by Jeff Plankenhorn who has recently released his own well-received disc she stole a lot of hearts. Songs aired on that showing and which stayed with me (always a sign of a real songwriter) are presented on this Red House Records disc.
The cover, by Newsweek journalist Charles Ommaney, sets the tone perfectly. These are ballads from an imperfect world. The songs are as poignant and affecting as the knowledge that the young boy diving into the pool of industrial waste in Albania will probably die young from the effects of all that pollution.
At a time when politics is hard to avoid it surprising how many songwriters are avoiding it. I’m not talking mild platitudes here. Eliza grasps the nettle fair and square on opener ‘Hiway 9′ …’whose tax dollar is it yours and mine, keeps the big trucks rollin down hiway 9’. We are all implicated. It isn’t just the ‘little man’ and his ‘daddy’s kin’ in the White House we are all implicated in these crimes.
The album drifts in and out of the personal and the political. Where does one end and the next begin ….when a single woman is ok being on her own for a while (Not Lonely) or a girl is thrown on a table and her brother ‘ forced himself inside of me’ (Ballad of Yvonne Johnson’). The personal is political and how we treat each other has implications for how we treat the world around us. We take and we spoil for o-i-l she says and we cannot wash the stains from our boots and hems.
Musically the recordings are faultless and the star backing group of Slaid Cleaves, Iris Dement and Mary Chapin Carpenter is secondary to the power of the songs here. I haven’t heard all of her back catalogue but this sounds like a career best record. She covers her father in ‘Runnin Away’ and for those unaware he was a man who wrote for Johnny Cash and others and this a lovely homage to the man who now sadly gone.
The back cover of the record has another telling photo of a ‘God Bless America’ poster defaced to read ‘God Bless the World’ with a peace sign inserted in the letter O. This album is a heartfelt plea from a woman who has lived and seen the costs of the american dream and calls to us to change course before it too late…as she sings ‘wayward world I weep for thee….’.
The land of ‘Milk and Honey’ is awash with the smell of ‘terror and ashes’ as Mavis Gallant said of postwar Germany. When will the fires stop burning? Her coda is a superb rendition of a hitherto unrecorded Woody Guthrie tune ‘Peace Call’ with a star chorus of voices. A fitting end and a rallying cry too..
‘ I’ll work, I’ll fight, ‘ll dance and sing of peace of the youthful spirit,
get ready for the bugle call of peace
peace, peace, peace,’
Is it worth buying? Damn right it is but this is not about easy listening this is about how you live your life….it goes beyond the warm living rooms and the folk fans cd player and collection..it goes beyond those comfortable barriers behind which we hide from the cold winds of war………..it’s about those trucks rumbling down Hiway 9………it is a record of our fears and our hopes and our dreams…. hear that bugle calling….