ELIZA GILKYSON: The Nocturne Diaries

Eliza Gilkyson: Nocturne Diaries


Eliza Gilkyson
The Nocturne Diaries
Red House 264


Eliza Gilkyson’s songs have been covered by Joan Baez, Tom Rush and Rosanne Cash, even though they write their own material – they fall into the “I wish I’d written that” kind of category. And when she does her own songs on an album, especially with these solid roots rock and folk arrangements, it’s even better. Produced by her son Cisco Ryder and herself, the arrangements never crowd her thought-provoking songs. In the liner notes she comments that most of these were written in the middle of the night and covers the “big themes,” partly because of the “backdrop of shadows.” Indeed, the songs cover some somber territory, from “No Tomorrow,” where she asks a lover to come close because you never know when it’ll all end, to “American Boy,” told from the point of view of a teen who threatens to “Blow my world to kingdom come.” There are some upbeat moments, though, like the Carter Family-inspired “Touchstone” that includes a banjo and autoharp. Lucy Kaplansky and Cisco Ryder add kick-ass harmonies. The chorus is a joyous sing along. There’s a similar old-time feel to “Eliza Jane” with banjo and more of those great harmonies. She even includes a little bit of that classic fiddle tune with a similar name. “The Ark” is a modern flood story with very different instrumentation. Like many of the cuts, it’s anchored by her guitar, but partway through you start to hear Middle Eastern instruments like the oud (a stringed lute-like instrument) and doumbek (Turkish hand drum). Very nice. On “The Red Rose and the Thorn” she rocks out on a slightly distorted electric guitar. She also covers songs written by others including her father, Terry Gilkyson’s “Fast Freight,” and John Gorka’s “Where No Monument Stands.” The disc ends with “All Right Now,” an optimistic piece featuring only her electric guitar, some stellar pedal steel and slide guitar from John Egenes, and toward the end, a saw … the kind you find at a hardware store. It’s played with a bow, sounding like an off-kilter fiddle and adds a whimsical quality. The CD booklet comes with full liner notes and lyrics, something I wish more songwriters would do. This wonderful release will get a lot of airplay at my house. Yours too, I’ll bet.

Jamie Anderson

About Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson has done just about every job in music, from radio DJ to touring musician. She’s written for a plethora of music and LGBT publications; in May 2014 she published a memoir, Drive All Night. When she’s not obsessing over her latest writing project — a book about women’s music — she teaches guitar, mandolin, ukulele and songwriting in Ottawa, Ontario where she shares a home with her wife and two felines. She’s a singer-songwriter who’s recorded ten albums including the latest, Dare. Jamie loves dark chocolate, cats, and Orange is the New Black although she’d like to see a good TV show about lesbians that doesn’t include prison or a lead character dying.

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