I listened to this on and off all day. It was a very good day. I felt pulled into my body and centered by the wise words and soulful full grown melodies of an artist who's lived fully, through the glory and the grief, and Eliza Gilkyson digs deep, and you don't really get it until you do, too.
Like a lot of great music, it can be appreciated on various levels, but if you open up to the songs and dwell in the melody and inhabit the characters, you can go to that quiet place inside, and you will find her there. I did, anyhow.
The deep respect you find for the artist in folk and acoustic world are a product of her excellence, but also her place in the grand musical scheme--she's been at this a long time, longer than her countenance betrays. Her father, Terry Gilkyson, was a successful songwriter and a folk musician with The Easy Riders (best known for their 1957 hit "Marianne"). But his publishing successes were pop songs for artists like Dean Martin (he co-wrote "Memories Are Made Of This") and Disney movies, so he's said not to have received his props from his folk peers. (What a shock.)
Eliza was already recording in the Southwest in the late '60s. She's recorded over a dozen titles, though nearly half have gone out of print. Several are under scrutiny for reissue. She's had her storytelling period, her New Age period, her dormant periods, and run the full folk rock gamut. To call her voice alluring is understated--she combines all the ghostly charm of Emmy Lou Harris with that rare smoky quality that fires up entirely different chakras. At the moment, I'm listening again to the stirring title song (where she sings "…the bird in my hand is promising paradise…") and over the instrumental rideout she's humming the Procol Harum classic " A Whiter Shade of Pale," it's fabulous. It leads to the impassioned "Man of God," perhaps the best anti-Bush sentiment in song that I've heard to date. The artist plays electric guitar on the cut (along with Mike Hardwick and her brother Tony, who played in X, no less) and it features a slew of great artists in the choir and the band, including Ray Bonneville on harmonica and vocals.
Co-producer Mark Hallman has again done a stellar job here, along with some excellent vocal tracks and various instrumentation. Drummer, percussionist and vocalist Cisco Ryder also deserves special mention.
Paradise Hotel is such a multi-layered effort from such a substantial artist that it truly gets better with every listen. I consider it squarely in the must have category.