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Paradise Hotel

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Album Review

On her last album, 2004's Land of Milk and Honey, Eliza Gilkyson, long based in Austin, Texas, made some of her most explicitly political statements and, for her trouble, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, as well, it seems, as critical email from some of her fans. (Like Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks, Gilkyson seemed ashamed that the President of the U.S. was from Texas, and while she acknowledged the criticism on her website,, she also made a point of noting that 57,288,974 Americans, at the very least — the number of people who voted for Senator John Kerry for President in 2004 — were on her side.) If Land of Milk and Honey was her pre-election treatise, Paradise Hotel is, inevitably, her post-election lament, one she sings in a mature, smoky voice that is occasionally reminiscent of Emmylou Harris, three years her senior, and often of Lucinda Williams, three years her junior. True, the only explicitly political song on the album is "Man of God," an unsparing condemnation of George W. Bush that denies his claim to religious justification for his foreign and domestic policies. ("Jesus said help the poor and the weak/If he lived today he'd be a liberal freak.") But Gilkyson also finds analogous historical and spiritual subjects to get her points across. "Jedidiah 1777," based on the letters of her ancestor, Brigadier General Jedidiah Huntington, who fought in the Revolutionary War with George Washington, echoes her feelings about the Bush Administration with its criticism of "loyalists laying their money down on the king" and its statement that "if victory were just for the wealthy our noble cause wouldn't be worth the hardship we're suffering." Elsewhere, she takes a distinctly elegiac tone in the prayerful "Requiem" and "When You Walk On" (which might as well be called "When You Pass On"), the songs that end the disc. But these tracks and "Calm Before the Storm," coming just before them, offer comfort through faith and family, and it's significant that, though she covers World Party's history-of-the-world song "Is It Like Today?" (and makes it sound like one of her own tunes), she deliberately leaves off its ending, in which a frustrated God blows up the universe and starts all over again. Dire as she may consider things to be, Gilkyson makes clear in the title track that the "Paradise Hotel" is at least across the street and well within sight, even if, for the moment, its blinking sign is keeping her from getting any sleep.


Born: 1950 in Hollywood, CA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Folk singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson was born in Hollywood, California, the daughter of folk-pop singer/songwriter Terry Gilkyson (1916-1999). Her father wrote and recorded "The Cry of the Wild Goose," which Frankie Laine covered for a number one hit in 1950, as well as the 1953 Top Ten hit "Tell Me a Story," recorded by Laine Jimmy Boyd. As a performer, he was co-credited with the Weavers on the 1951 Top Ten hit "On Top of Old Smoky." With Richard Dehr and Frank Miller, he was a member of the Easy...
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Paradise Hotel, Eliza Gilkyson
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