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.