Eliza Gilkyson Sings It Like It Is

| 11/18/2008 4:22:23 PM

Blue Eliza GilkysonSinger-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson’s Beautiful World is one of the best folk albums of 2008, with lyrics that tackle tough social and political issues set amid crisp acoustic music that makes these themes easy, even enjoyable, to swallow. Gilkyson has clearly mastered the delicate art of the topical folk song, avoiding the cringe factor that plagues so many well-intentioned but ham-handed protest singers. Her dusky voice and lilting melodies are alluring enough on their own; her knack for insightful analysis just adds another layer of meaning to her multifaceted music.

Beautiful World’s lyrics carry warnings about the wages of excess (“The Party’s Over”), an impending “Great Correction,” and the human carnage of Web porn (“Dream Lover”). But the album also has an old-timey ode to a spring-fed swimming hole (“Wildewood Spring”) and offers plenty of handholds for optimists clinging to the cliff of doom, especially on the two closing songs, “Beautiful World” and “Unsustainable.” I recently spoke with Gilkyson by phone from her home in Austin, Texas, about community, collapse, and the still-coming great correction.

Beautiful World came out in the spring. You must be quite proud of yourself for having predicted the economic crisis and the downfall of the Bush regime with “The Party’s Over” and “Great Correction.”

(laughs) “Yes, well, I had read The Collapse, you know, and I think I felt that we were treading on thin ice for a long time. At first, when the record came out and the collapse, the correction, hadn’t occurred, I was thinking, God, everybody’s working so hard for Obama right now that the timing isn’t right on this because everyone’s all excited and everything, and I’m writing a record about a collapse. (laughs) But it turned out that the timing was right.”

What did you have in mind when you wrote “The Party’s Over”? Did it start out as a political song, or a personal song, or something in between?

“I did not mean to write it about the Bush regime, by any means. I was writing it about First World consumers. That’s really what I was targeting in this recording. It wasn’t red state, blue state in my mind. It was First World nations being the major consumers of energy and raw materials—and that it’s unsustainable and we’ve come to the end.”

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