Land of Milk and Honey – Eliza Gilkyson
Red House Records 174
While Janis Joplin’s "Mercedes Benz" was a song of great social and political importance, Eliza Gilkyson’s Land of Milk and Honey is an entire album of great social and political importance. It’s as American as apple pie throughout — even the black and white shot used for the album’s cover screams red, white, and blue. On the back of the case is another black and white photo, this one of a huge billboard painted as the American flag reads ‘God Bless America.’ Only, over the top of the first half of ‘America’ is another sign, reading ‘The World.’ The O’ a peace sign. Political without being overtly political, Gilkyson gets her point across subtly. It isn’t unusual for artists to express their beliefs via their lyrics, and Gilkyson does it beautifully.
Nearly a half a century ago, Woody Guthrie wrote a song titled "Peace Call." It all but seemed forgotten until 1963, when it appeared in a Woody Guthrie songbook. Despite being such a powerful anthem for peace, it was never recorded — until now. Folk artist Eliza Gilkyson, along with Patty Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Iris Dement, has finally brought it to life. Gilkyson closes the album with it. Although the lyrics are pushing 50 years old, they could have easily been written 50 days ago: "Thick war clouds will throw their shadows, darkening the world around you. But in my life of peace your dark illusions fall."
From the opener, "Hiway 9," on which Slaid Cleaves lends harmony vocals, to the aforementioned closer, Gilkyson’s beautifully soothing voice wraps around her equally beautiful melodies. It isn’t a stretch to call her the 21st century female version of Bob Dylan. Raising awareness to the war in Iraq on "Hiway 9," she sings, "Between the Tigris and Euphrates it’s a lot like Hell, go on and liberate my people and their o-i-l."
But it isn’t all peace, politics, and war. She touches on the horrible subject of abuse in "Ballad of Yvonne Johnson," co-written by herself and Johnson. The story that the lyrics tell is absolutely ugly: "First memory of my brother Leon, I was only three. He threw me on the table, forced himself inside of me." Despite the horrid tale the song tells, Gilkyson manages to sound hopeful and optimistic, one of her many talents.
With three decades of musical experience behind her, Gilkyson has given us an album that people of all ages can relate to. We are living in an era where war isn’t a possibility; it’s a reality. We are living in a time where we seek comfort in music. Like John Lennon before, all Gilkyson is saying is give peace a chance.