A Musical Legacy

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Eliza Gilkyson, who plays at Henfling’s Firehouse Tavern in Ben Lomond this coming Wednesday, can definitely claim to be from a musical family.  Her father is the late Terry Gilkison, a songwriter whose credits include “Memories Are Made of This,” made famous by Dean Martin, and “The Bare Necessities” from Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1968.

It is hardly surprising that the young Gilkyson knew very early on that her life would be centered on music.  As a teenager, she provided vocals on her father’s demo tapes. “He would use me in the studio because I had a mature voice at an early age and would work for free.”  At the same time, she began writing her own songs and recording them and when, at the end of the 1960s, she moved to New Mexico, she very quickly built up a fan base around the Southwest, playing both solo and with bands such as the Ark Band.

Gilkyson released her first solo album, “Love From the Heart,” in 1979, and has released 11 albums in total, including her best-known work “Pilgrims,” released in 1987 on Gold Castle Records.  Its atmospheric songs caught the attention of fans of the New Age music that was popular at the time, and gained her a new, wider fan base than her usual folk audience.

She moved to Europe and worked for several years with Swiss harpist and composer Andreas Vollenweider, another leading light of the New Age music scene.  On returning to the United States, she released two CDs, 1996’s “Through the Looking Glass” and 1997’s “Redemption Road.”  These were followed by “Misfits” in 1999, a collection of out-takes released on her own Realiza label.  She then signed in 2000 to Red House Records, where she released her critically acclaimed albums “Hard Times in Babylon” (2000) and “Lost and Found” (2002).

In 2003, Eliza Gilkyson was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame, an honor that she shares with Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith and others.  She has recently toured with Patty Griffin and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Gilkyson’s most recent CD is “Land of Milk and Honey,” released earlier this year on Red House Records.  Like many artists at the moment, her newest songs reflect the current, turbulent political landscape and various social issues.  The album also includes a previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie song, “Peace Call,” which features vocals by Patty Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Iris DeMent.  Of the album, Gilkyson says, “This is music for a generation that won’t stand idly by while its vision for improving the quality of life on earth seems ever clouded by… politics, power, greed and global unrest.”

Eliza Gilkyson is currently on tour to promote “Land of Milk and Honey.”  Wednesday’s show at Henfling’s is one of only two California dates this year.  If you miss her this time around, you’ll have to wait until mid-2005 to see her again, so get your tickets early.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, September 16, 2004

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