Video of Eliza Gilkyson’s western-themed songs from The River Wind
This new record from Grammy-nominated folk favorite Eliza Gilkyson hits the songwriters’ sweet spot.
We always love new music from an old friend – especially when that longtime friend is folk goddess Eliza Gilkyson. His new album, River Wind Songsscored big with fans: it is currently No. 2 on the folk charts and Top 40 on the Americana album chart.
And it’s a hit with music critics: “A heartfelt tribute in its entirety, River Wind Songs is, in fact, one of the most evocative offerings imaginable. It is, to sum up, a most exquisite collection.(American songwriter). “The dreamy pedal steel guitar and warm, laid-back vocals make this a perfect ode to the breathtaking beauty of the American West.” (To glide) “Each track on River Wind Songs shimmers and shines in the light of Gilkyson’s evocative writing…” (No Depression). “A pastoral ode to simpler times, a life shaped by love of the land, it is a truly wondrous evocation of the foundations of one’s heart and home, perhaps best heard at dusk and allowed to be carried away to the rivers and hills it so beautifully celebrates.UK Folk Radio).
As for our own assessment, we’re so elated by this new generation of songs that we just want to head out to Gilkyson country, ride horses through the Sangre de Cristos high desert by day, and sing around crackling campfires under the New Mexico starry sky at night.
Taken directly from the press materials: “Inspired by the memories of characters and events that gave birth to his enduring love affair with the West, the songs span 40 years – from originals to vintage classics – and culminate in her recent decision to permanently move to Taos, where she is finally sinking deep into her roots. With a nod to her father, folksinger Terry Gilkyson and his 1950s folk band The Easy Riders, who recorded original, traditional folk songs with a distinctive Western flavor, Eliza teamed up with her old friend Don Richmond to produce the record, enlisting Don’s beloved band. Southwestern band The Rifters to sing backup harmonies. The band shines on Eliza’s version of The Easy Riders’ version of the traditional tune “Wanderin.”
We spoke with Gilkyson from her home in the Taos campaign about her new record, what she loves about her New Mexico home, and getting in the saddle for her new video for “Don’t Stop Lovin’ Me.” .
Cowboys and Indians: Tell us a bit about the new record and how it came together.
Eliza Gilkyson: The entire record is truly a collection of stories that reflect my lifelong infatuation with the Wild West, the people and places I loved from childhood to adulthood as I continued to wander and explore this part of the country. I was inspired to make this record when I decided to return to Taos, New Mexico and put down permanent roots in our old adobe hacienda complete with orchard, pasture and field at the base of a sheltering mountain. . I wanted to celebrate my return to this place that means so much to me.
THIS : Favorite parts in the lyrics? In music ?
Gilkyson: I really like the three traditional folk songs that I rewrote from a female point of view, because many old songs are from a male point of view. It was really fun to switch perspective in those venerable old songs.
THIS : How about this fun and silly video?
Gilkyson: I had so much fun making this video with the Rifters, a popular southwestern band who produced and performed on my record. The Rifters’ Rod Taylor was the head wrangler at Philmont Ranch in Cimarron for 40 years, and his friends let us use their venerable old ranch for the video. Rod let me ride his willful cowpony “Lucky”, who patiently put up with our shenanigans. It was a beautiful fall day, and we laughed a lot, I got to ride a big horse, and the sky was that New Mexico blue, the air scented with sage – perfection! The indoor dance scene was shot a few months later at the wonderful old Anglada Community Dance Hall in Taos, and the local dancers showed up on a very cold day for the shoot, around 26 degrees in the building with no heating. But we made it work!
THIS : You are based in New Mexico, so the West (the Taos variety) is an integral part of your life. How does this show up in your music?
Gilkyson: The entire record is a tribute to the Wild West and my travels in search of my true home, from the Badlands of Wyoming to the Rio Grande in New Mexico, to finally find this home along the mountains and rivers that I learned to love so deeply here in Taos. The music celebrates this beauty and my affection for the land and for the people who have marked my life in the West, some of whom are unfortunately no longer with us.
THIS : How did you get out of it and what did you do during the confinement?
Gilkyson: We just immersed ourselves in this property, improving our irrigation chops, harvesting our orchard, setting fruit and walking the trails around our house. We felt incredibly lucky to have this place to retire and make a home here. Musically, I found some satisfaction in doing continuous live performances from my funky adobe garage, which gave me a sense of staying connected to the musical base. I haven’t toured for over two years, I’ve only done local gigs, but hopefully that will change!
THIS : When you’re not on the road with music, what do you do?
Gilkyson: Thoroughly enjoy Taos! Slowing down for the first time in my adult life. Stop to smell the sagebrush and watch the changing light and sunsets. Repairing this century-old house, which… “needs work”.
THIS : You come from a family of musicians. What was it like growing up in your house?
Gilkyson: My father was a very charismatic, funny and entertaining songwriter who also had a more complex side. We sang a lot. He threw us into nature from an early age. And he was very egalitarian, an admirer of the natural world who loved to fish, write songs and travel the West. He planted these seeds in all of us children. It wasn’t always a bed of roses back home, to continue the metaphor, but overall I’d say we were pretty damn lucky.
THIS : I have to fan girl for a minute about your guitarist brother, Tony, and some of my favorite bands he was in: X and Lone Justice. Have you ever made music together, and what is it like?
Gilkyson: Tony lived in California during the X and Lone Justice years, so I missed that connection, but of course, as you know, he’s an incredibly talented musician and songwriter. He played beautiful guitar on a number of my records, and I recorded several of his songs. He was always much cooler than me! We have a fun musical history including a band called Silverchief, Wild Dog of the North where he played a double drum kit and did really long drum solos and I sang terrible lyrics written by the guitarist leader of the group – truly cringe-worthy. There are photos. We’ve done occasional shows together, but it’s been several years since we’ve tried that.
THIS : When we are in Taos, what should we be sure to do?
Gilkyson: The hike up to Williams Lake is pretty awesome at over 10,000 feet. But my favorite trail is the Columbine Trail between Questa and Red River. It’s a gradual climb that meanders along a beautiful mountain stream with easy stream crossings and plenty of rewards as you go up, but even a short jaunt is enjoyable. You must have blue corn enchiladas at Orlando and drive the high road from Santa Fe to Taos through old villages that time forgot. Eat homemade ice cream at Taos Cow in Arroyo Seco and shop at small thrift stores. Go see Jimmy Stadler play Sabroso – lots of locals show up for the shot. See the Rio Grande Gorge on the road to Tres Piedras. Visit Taos Pueblo for a real history of Taos. Buy local art!
THIS : What’s next for you?
Gilkyson: Start playing, local shows with the Rifters – lots of fun doing that. Tours to come in May and June, and a few festivals in the summer. Slowly getting back to it, Covid wants it and the creek is not rising!
First video of “Don’t Stop Loving Me”
Stream/order Eliza Gilkyson’s album here.
Photography: (Cover image) courtesy of Robert Jensen; (album artwork) courtesy of Bill Sincavage; (Live Image) Courtesy of Tim Reese