Eliza Gilkyson has apparently been flying under the folk radar for quite some time now -- her Wikipedia entry lists no birth date, guesses at her age, and is comprised entirely of a single sentence about her musical family connections and a list of her 15 studio albums over a 28 year career.
I must admit, it was a surprise for me to find Gilkyson so unwritten. If her regular appearance on folk collections is any indication, she's well-respected as a solid voice within the folk community, appearing with names from ani to Shawn Colvin. Heck, someone who played a feature set at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival back when her 2000 cut "Hard Times In Babylon" was all over the folkwaves deserves more than a stub.
To be fair, her relatively recent rise in familiarity, if only within the apparently non-wikipedian folk community, is also due to her appearance on two cover albums -- 2002 Greg Brown tribute Going Driftless and 2001 Dylan recast A Nod To Bob. The former is a masterpiece of the modern folk community; the latter is a generally solid all-folk tribute album to Dylan; both contain covers from a wide breadth of excellent folkies and singer-songwriters, and will surely come up again here on Cover Lay Down.
Gilkyson's cuts on these albums are equally powerful, melodic, raw and twangy; though you can hear the weary age in her voice, there's something plaintive, simple, even hopeful about her interpretations. But don't take my word for it. Take an earful, and hear for yourself.
Her catalog is vast, and though I can't claim to have heard it all, what I have heard is worth owning. I especially recommend Gilkyson's penultimate album Paradise Hotel, which includes a wonderful cover of 80s one-hitter World Party's Is It Like Today, and her 2000 Red House Records release Hard Times in Babylon, and not just for the title song. Get them direct from the label -- Red House deserves your support. You can hear more Gilkyson on MySpace, too.
Today's Bonus Coversongs: