Album Challenge Day 10: Hard Times in Babylon by Eliza Gilkyson

Let’s start be acknowledging the misogyny in my previous 9 picks. Not a single woman in the bunch. During my formative years I did not listen to many (really any?) female musicians. Part of that is due to the era. There weren’t a lot of opportunities for women in the music business, and especially beyond the pop genre, which I was not into at that time, nor did I even acknowledge its value. There were of course female musicians who had made it in the 70s and 80s, but I was largely ignorant of them. There’s the misogyny. Not even seeing them! Fortunately this began to change in the 90s (both for the industry and for me). I’ve grown since then, though there’s still room for growth.

“Hard Times in Babylon” was Eliza’s debut album on Red House Records. This was what brought her into some national prominence in the folk (maybe alt contemporary) genre. She was 50 in 2000 when this record was released and had been working away at writing, recording, and playing (more regionally in the southwest) for nearly 30 years. That is some serious persistence! A friend, Glenn Bourdot, introduced me to her music. He invited me to come along with him and few other people to see Greg Brown at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. I was already a Greg Brown fan at this point. But, who Glenn really wanted me to see was the person opening, Eliza Gilkyson. This seems to be a theme, no? Friends introducing me to music because they know I’ll love them. Once again, a friend nailed it. During Eliza’s first song, Eliza’s microphone was slowly dropping. Glenn got up (from his 2nd row aisle seat next to me) and went up on stage and readjusted and tightened her microphone stand while she continued to play. I’ve followed her career closely since that night.

I think she’s an amazing songwriter, as well as wonderful singer and musician. And having gotten to know her a little bit, I’ve discovered she’s a remarkable person as well. As genuine and caring as her songwriting communicates. This album is not my favorite of hers, but it was my introduction to her songwriting, which has had a significant impact on my music since. Her two latest albums, “Secularia” and “2020,” have felt like just the albums I needed to hear at that time.

I’m sharing with you my attempt at what might be her signature song. I’m guessing it is the most requested. Here’s Sanctuary off of Hard Times and Babylon initially, and then she recorded a different version for Secularia.

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