Hear It First at Folk Alley - Eliza Gilkyson 'The Nocturne Diaries'

*Eliza Gilkyson releases 'The Nocturne Diaries' (Red House Records) on Tuesday, March 18th. You can stream the album on-demand in its entirety until then at FolkAlley.com!*

By Kim Ruehl, for FolkAlley.com

The cover of Eliza Gilkyson's 20th studio album, The Nocturne Diaries (out Mar. 18 on Red House Records), shows her sitting next to a campfire with an acoustic guitar. Though the notion of a fireside folksinger may seem a little cliché, there is nothing campy or predictable about the music contained on this disc. Instead, the album is wrought with raw recordings that sound like the sort of close and quiet tunes you might hear when you wander late night at the Kerrville Folk Festival outside Gilkyson's hometown of Austin, Tex. Even the instrumental solos - fiddle, parlor piano, musical saw, the occasional distorted guitar - sound like the restrained contributions of friends seeking more to color the spirit of the song than steal the spotlight.

As Gilkyson writes in the liners, "The songs that come in the night are very different than the daylight songs. Usually the big themes crop up in the dark, thoughts of mortality, the state of the world, the plight of mankind, one's failures, losses and fears - the things we are too distracted to notice during the day... To me, the challenge today is to remain human when everything around us compels us to shut down."

Though her career has certainly produced its share of great songs that tackle all these difficult nighttime topics, what's new about The Nocturne Diaries is that those themes come to light in an even more honest and arresting way. There's no solving the world's problems at night - only considering them and following them toward their natural anxieties, how one fear often leads to another or, if we're lucky, toward a more open understanding.

An easy highlight is "The Red Rose and the Thorn", whose rhyme scheme as well as its subject matter may make you wonder if it's an old ballad, dug up and dusted off for contemporary use. In fact, it's an Eliza Gilkyson original, written with the kind of astute folk sensibility that she has always purveyed.

"An American Boy" tackles the harsh difficulty of standing in the shoes of an angry young man, who dreams of literally blowing it all up. It's a difficult song to hear, as she attempts to arrive at some empathy. It's also probably the only song you'll hear use the word "Facebook" in a poetic and purposeful way. In the interest of balance, she touches on pretty much every other fear and deep thought, from Noah's Ark and environmental catastrophe all the way to romantic love and back again. There are cover songs from John Gorka and her father, Terry Gilkyson. But it's the final track that closes the night on a high note, saving us all from a rotating door of dark emotions. She sings: "Tonight I confess I am forever blessed / by the riches of family and hearth. / And with this roof o'er my head and you in my bed, I've got it all here in my heart."

The Nocturne Diaries is as much about the darkness in the middle of the night as it is about getting through to night's end. It's a journey album that wrestles with some of life's greatest questions, pays tribute to her family and heroes, and discovers what ultimately matters most.

CLICK HERE to LISTEN to 'The Nocturne Diaries' in its entirety until March 18th!

Views: 369

Comment by norm tandberg on March 12, 2014 at 5:33pm
been waiting for awhile for this one.thanks for the advance heads up. just a guess,but i sense another best of 2014 release. thanks kim
Comment by Bruce Parkinson on March 14, 2014 at 11:33am

I had the pleasure of hearing (and meeting) Eliza at a house concert in Peterborough, Canada, and later at a larger venue here. She is a gorgeous person in every aspect, a wonderful storyteller and she shines with an inner light. Just listened to The Nocturne Diaries and it is as beautiful as anything she's done. An American treasure.

Comment by John Graveling on March 19, 2014 at 10:40am

Been a fan for many years buying the records and attending the concerts on her frequent trips to the U.K. I feel this is something of a departure and none the worse for it. It's certainly earthier and more rustic in places than most of her previous work. Lyrically it's as engaging as ever and in the end I'm sure will stand as another wonderful release in her recording canon. Repeated plays reveal more and more :-)

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.