New Album by Folk Singer Eliza Gilkyson: 2020

My Heart Aches

This album came out in February of 2020. The timing of its release now seems strangely, almost miraculously prophetic. It was a precursor to all we would experience in the following months. I was stunned. The first day I listened to this was in May, the week George Floyd was murdered. It is such a beautiful, heartbreaking collection of songs. It made me cry with the ache of all that has been and continues to be. That can be the power of music, isn’t it? There is lament and protest in this album, and our hearts ache with hers as we reckon with the brokenness of the world.

And yet. And yet. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: the lament of this album isn’t all that is here. There are glimmers of hope in “We Are Not Alone.”  She sings, “Where two or more are gathered together – we raise our voices to the sky.” They are words that remind us of Jesus’ promise to be in the midst of us when we pray together. Her “Beautiful World of Mine” is a pledge to love and care for creation. A reminder of the Anglican prayer “Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.”

There are two covers on the album. A long, beautiful rendition of Where Have all the Flowers Gone? And Bob Dylan’s iconic A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall. Despite its age, it remains an eerily contemporary ballad of injustice. I didn’t think she could make me feel like I heard it for the first time, but that’s exactly what happened.

Perhaps my favorite track is Beach Haven. I had no idea what “Beach Haven” was until I did some digging. It is a song inspired by a letter Woody Guthrie wrote to his landlord in 1954. Beach Haven became infamous for its refusal to rent to Black people and was involved in a number of lawsuits. (It hasn’t changed much. In 2016, Beach Haven was fined for dumping two hundred thousand gallons of untreated sewage into Coney Island Creek each day.) The owner of the complex was Fred Trump.

The song is a plea to find ways to live together, talk together, and love together. In my opinion, it is spectacular.

Musically, the whole album sings. I’ve always been a fan of Eliza, but I especially love this one for the words, the vocals, and the outstanding musicianship.