Eliza Gilkyson - Biography
Eliza Gilkyson is one of the singer/songwriters who makes the Austin, Texas scene so vital, a Grammy nominated writer with a long musical history and a daunting pedigree. Gilkyson was born in Los Angeles, daughter of Terry Gilkyson of The Easy Riders, and sister of Tony Gilkyson who played with X in their latter days. Her dad wrote Frankie Laine's “Cry of the Wild Goose,” Dean Martin’s #1 hit “Memories Are Made of This,” the Brothers Four’s biggest tune “Greenfields,” and “Maryanne” for the Easy Riders, one of the first successful folk/pop tunes.
Gilkyson's father knew many of the leading figures in the folk revival and she grew up surrounded by songwriters and musicians. She was singing on his demos while she was still in high school. After her mother’s death in the late 60s, she moved to New Mexico, joined a hippie commune and had a son Cisco, who eventually became a percussionist in her band.
Gilkyson had been writing songs since she was a girl and in 1969 she released her first album Eliza ’69 (1969 Mont Clar). Love from the Heart (1979 Helios), recorded as Lisa Gilkyson was more political than personal, but Gilkyson only played in the Santa Fe area, and her career wasn’t going anywhere, so she moved to Austin, and had a second child, Cordelia Castillo.
Although she was having her tunes covered by other artists, most notably Rosanne Cash who included “Rosie Strike Back” on King’s Record Shop (1987 Columbia), Gilkyson’s own recording career was in limbo. Pilgrims (1987 Gold Castle) and Legends of Rainmaker (1989 Gold Castle) were solid, well written albums, marked by a smooth acoustic sound and Gilkyson’s pure emotional alto. They became favorites with new age fans.
Between 1990 and 1993 she lived in Europe and returned to the states for Through the Looking Glass (1993 Private Music), a collection of personal love songs, got good notices, as did Redemption Road (1997 Silver Wave) another quiet, introspective collection. When her father died in 1999, Gilkyson dealt with her loss on Misfits (2000 Realiza) a self released album. Folk radio picked up on it and the prestigious indie singer/songwriter label Red House signed her. Hard Times in Babylon (2000 Red House), is an intense low-key charmer, while Lost and Found (2002 Red House) Gilkyson’s craggy voice adds to the emotional impact of the material. Land of Milk and Honey (2004 Red House) mixed the personal and political and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy. “Peace Call,” an obscure Woody Guthrie song is one of the album’s best tracks, with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Griffin, and Iris DeMent adding their harmonies to the tune.
Paradise Hotel (2005 Red House) includes several scathing political songs and Beautiful World (2008 Red House) lives up to its ironic title with a collection of bleak tunes leavened by the belief that love can, if not conquer all, at lest make life worth living, even in the darkest times. The live sets Your Town Tonight (2007 Red House) and Live from Austin, TX (2007 New West) capture Gilkyson at her best. The first includes some of her best tunes from her back catalogue for a greatest hits live set. Live from Austin shows her more emotional side, delivering a riveting performance to an enthusiastic hometown crowd. 2010 saw the release of Red Horse, followed by Roses At The End Of Time in 2011.