Eliza Gilkyson has been making excellent albums for a long while now and a new one after a gap of three years is very welcome. This is another really good one.
The cover photo has a sort of cosy singalong-round-the-campfire look to it, but the material here isn't cosy at all. It's melodic and very beautiful in places, but Gilkyson's Nocturnes are songs about those things which keep us awake at night with worry. She tackles a variety of subjects with her customary intelligence and insight, and although there is a general political awareness here she doesn't launch any real political missiles like Man Of God, for example. Instead she sings of with forgotten soldiers in Where No Monument Stands, of child abuse in Not My Home and of more personal worries about relationships and insecurity in songs like No Tomorrow. To give a flavour, the excellent An American Boy gets into the head of a desperately unhappy young man contemplating a rampage and contains the lines:
"My parents wonder if I'm doing all right;
They keep the gun case locked up tight
With the key hanging there in plain sight
While I make my plans.
It won't be long before I come undone…"
It's a remarkable, brave and also very musical song, and others on the album are just as good.
There are lighter moments; she gently mocks her own constant worrying in Eliza Jane and the final track is a redemptive country waltz celebrating the blessing of home and family. There's also a great version of her father's song Fast Freight.
The songs carry Gilkyson's trademark fine, straightforward tunes and are beautifully arranged and produced, with her acoustic guitar well to the fore, lovely harmony when appropriate and some pedal steel, distorted guitar and a few other instruments placed perfectly to make every song shine. It's a pleasure to listen to and in spite of its quite serious lyrical content it is never gloomy or depressing.
I think this is a very good album from one of the finest Americana/alt-country singer-songwriters of the last three decades and more. It has the class and depth to last for many years and I recommend it very warmly.