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Eliza Gilkyson 

Paradise Hotel (Red House)

Although Eliza Gilkyson has been making music for more than three decades, she's really blossomed in the past five years. On her last several albums, she's created from a rich palette of American roots music, balancing barbed social commentary with poignant personal examination. Last year's Land of Milk and Honey earned a Grammy nod, and her new disc, Paradise Hotel, is just as impressive.

On "Think About You" and "Borderline," Gilkyson delivers bruised-heart looks at love that would rank among Lucinda Williams' best. The standout "Man of God" offers a searing indictment of political and religious hypocrisy; however, the worldly-wise singer also reveals her own style of faith on the closing numbers -- the hymnlike "Requiem" and "When You Walk On," a stirring consideration of death. While the artful "Jedidiah 1777," set during the time of the Revolutionary War, and the all-Spanish ballad "Bellarosa" suggest stylistic experiments, both songs are highly personal. The former is based on letters written by a Gilkyson ancestor, and the latter, an ode to her granddaughter, features Gilkyson's daughter on vocals. Appealing to both head and heart, Paradise Hotel is a disc worth seeking out.

More by Michael Berick

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