Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Photo: Rodney Burseil / Courtesy of Compass Records

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Eliza Gilkyson

Red House / Compass

3 April 2020

Robert Frost set his famous poem about the unfinished task of living on a snowy evening. The weather serves as a metaphor for his isolation while stopping in the woods. Eliza Gilkyson opens her latest disc of political charged anthems, 2020, with "Promises to Keep", alluding to Frost's ode. But Gilkyson's song turns up the heat. "We're on fire," she sings, referring to the current state of national and international affairs. Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance. Her reversing of the imagery serves to show that we are not alone.

Gilkyson tempers her ardent passion for social justice in the calmness of her delivery. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul. She invokes history as a guide. She transforms a 1952 letter from Woody Guthrie to Fred Trump (President Donald Trump's father) about integrating his apartment buildings into a "Beach Haven", which calls for a more utopian world where all can "work and play together". She covers Pete Seeger's anti-war hymn popular during the '60s, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", in a quiet voice to suggest that while wars never seem to end, neither is the hope of those who oppose them in their quest for a better future.

"We Are Not Alone", Gilkyson reminds us. Her stated aim is "to transform the overwhelming feelings of grief and anxiety into motivated, inspired action". The self-penned tracks on this album mostly offer hope amidst the heartache of modern times. She knows the best way to attack evil is through community and with "Peace in Our Hearts". Gilkyson is more concerned with pointing the way forward than casting blame.

However, she's not afraid to address how the greedy powers that be have manipulated the masses. The ruling classes have turned people against each other through false religion, racism, sexism, and destroyed the natural grandeur of the earth in the process. The world is a beautiful place full of rainbows, snow-covered mountains, and unfolding seasons. There's no reason the planet can't remain lovely if we stop screwing it up. Gilkyson may be hopeful, but she is also a realist.

The album's other cover is a martial reading of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". Gilkyson warns us of the drastic consequences of not acting against warmongers, polluters, and profiteers. Sadly, Dylan's lyrics are even more apt today than they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War has lasted longer than its duration into a forever war where conflagrations can happen anytime, anywhere.

2020 was recorded in Gilkyson's hometown of Austin and produced by her son Cisco Ryder. Ryder also plays drums and employed a host of talented local musicians including Mike Hardwick on guitars, Chris Maresh on bass, Bukka Allen on keyboards, Warren Hood on fiddle, and Kym Warner on mandolin. Betty Soo supplies harmony vocals and is aided by the WEWIM female choir of Austin. The self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World" has suffered egregious losses of late, including the cancellation of South by Southwest and the closing of all of its music venues due to coronavirus. Gilkyson's latest opus reminds us of how much the Texas capital has given to the world through music. You don't need 20/20 vision to see how timely 2020 is.




Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'The Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.