Eliza Gilkyson: Roses at the End of Time

Eliza Gilkyson delivers another varied, thought-provoking, and deeply-felt release.

Eliza Gilkyson: Roses at the End of Time

Roses at the End of Time

Label: Red House
US Release Date: 2011-05-03
UK Release Date: 2011-05-16

Eliza Gilkyson has been making albums on and off since 1969, but it’s within the last decade that she has really hit her stride via releases such as Paradise Hotel (2005), Beautiful World (2008), and 2010’s Red Horse (with John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky). It’s unlikely that many reviews of Gilkyson’s records appear without some sort of reference to Lucinda Williams. Those comparisons are easy because both women have lived-in voices that only seem to get better, stronger with age, and because both women found recognition hard-won. But the comparisons end there. Unlike her counterpart, Gilkyson appears to be just gearing up, something that’s evident throughout the 10 varied pieces found on Roses at the End of Time. Produced by her son, Cisco Rider, and featuring guest turns from Gorka, Kaplansky, and Sumner “Brother of Roky” Erickson, the album is an almost unqualified success.

Album opener “Blue Moon Night” seems an obvious choice for the NPR spotlight –– hardly a measure of crass commercialism. The gently, twilight-soaked melody reveals its full majesty as patiently as a mirage, and at nearly six minutes in length, the track never wears out its welcome. And if a passing reference to iTunes smacks a little too much of the now for some listeners, then its successor, “Death in Arkansas” (penned by her brother, former X member Tony Gilkyson), is as timeless, down home, and seemingly effortless as Dolly Parton’s greatest work. The album hardly settles in before Gilkyson puts the pedal to the proverbial metal and moves to the open road for “Looking For a Place”, a welcome and respectable plea for sanctuary and solitude.

“Slouching Toward Bethlehem” allows Gilkyson to get her blues on with conviction, and she also crafts a lyric reminiscent of the great Bruce Cockburn in his darkest –– and most delicious –– hours. “2153” is a funny and insightful look at contemporary fundamentalism and rapture mania, while the closing “Once I Had a Home” sees the artist offering a heartfelt if somewhat flawed salute to souls less fortunate, living in nations torn asunder by attacks from without and convulsions within. But the pace is somewhat torpid, and the production harkens to bygone era (think Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball) that doesn’t really serve this otherwise under-produced and refined album all that well.

The seven-minute “Belle of the Ball” lingers a little too long, slowing the pace of the album, as does “Vayan al Norte.” That’s too bad because by the halfway mark, the record really begins to sing with promise and excitement. No matter, Gilkyson has earned her stature as a gifted and consistent songwriter, and those minor disappointments do little (or maybe nothing) to tarnish the solid reputation she’s earned.

Roses at the End of Time may not be the artist’s single greatest work, but it is another added pleasure in an enviable body of work –– moreover, it’s a refreshingly easy recording to enjoy, to turn to in times of laughter and tears, joy and fright, prayer, and bouts of irreverence: all the stuff we don’t seem to encounter on a single platter often enough.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.