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Eliza Gilkyson
Beautiful World

Review By Steven Stone
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  Few folksingers, even those from original folk revival, have been able to combine social consciousness with musicality as well as Eliza Gilkyson. She merges strong songwriting talent with commanding vocals to create music that has immediate appeal as well as lasting intellectual impact.

Beautiful World is Gilkyson's first studio release since 2005's Paradise Hotel. All the songs on Beautiful World were written since 2007 when she began co-hosting a monthly discussion group in Austin, TX. "We wanted to provide a place to discuss and mull over our future…the first song I wrote for it was ‘Great Correction.'" This tune begins with a reference to the Greek mystic Diogenes and proceeds to draw parallels between ancient times and current politics. In lesser hands this song could quickly degenerate into a didactic rant that would have listeners' fingers inching toward the fast-forward buttons on their remotes, but Gilkyson's musical artistry avoids this pitfall. The melody reassures listeners while the words provide more questions than answers. My favorite new song on Beautiful World is "Dream Lover." It tells the story of an adult performer from the point of view of the performer herself. Once more the lyrics pose questions instead of presenting conclusions. Gilkyson's vocals take on a guiless quality that gives her character an extra degree of believability. The song's upbeat pile-driving rhythm reminds me of some of Warren Zevon's best tunes.

Produced, engineered and mastered by Gilkyson's longtime collaborator and producer Mark Hallman, Beautiful World employs some of Texas' best players including David Grissom on electric guitar, Cindy Cashdollar on pedal steel, and Elana James on fiddle. The production's character is more pop than folk, with a sonic landscape populated by synthesizers and multi-layered instruments. The orchestrations serve to heighten each song's dramatic impact while not distracting from the tune's narrative purpose. While calling Beautiful World a masterpiece might seem a bit overenthusiastic I can't think of any more accurate description of Gilkyson's latest album.

 

 

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