video by Chris Gray
Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. Like Eliza Gilkyson’s almost-rained-out in-store at Cactus Records.
As Gilkyson packed her gear, I approached the stage and asked her how brother Tony was doing.
“He emailed a few weeks back that he’d had some health problems. Is he doing alright?”
Eliza looked up and asked, “Are you William Smith?”
“Tony was just talking about you in the car coming over. He’s at the Duck setting up the equipment. He’s lost your phone number, but he was hoping you’d come out.”
So music editor Chris Gray and I were guest-listed for the show.
And what a show it was. Not only was Eliza accompanied by ex-member of X (Tony) she also had Austin ace and Jon Dee Graham sideman Mike “The Professor” Hardwicke on guitar and son Cisco Ryder on drums.
Tony warmed the crowd up with a couple of his tunes, with sister joining him on the Bob Dylan-ish “Rattlesnake Boy” (see video). With zero fanfare, Hardwicke and Ryder took the stage and the band roared off into Eliza’s “Party’s Over.”
Eliza is touring in support of her latest Red House release, Beautiful World. It represents a subtle change of direction from her stellar Paradise Hotel, which had something of a political bent. The new album finds Gilkyson pondering the good things in life, along with her excellent tales about wayward musicians and lost souls.
But it was “Midnight Rider” and “Man of God” from Paradise Hotel that provided Tony G. and Professor Hardwicke room to get wicked on their guitars. The venerable listening room has seldom seen two more inventive and tasteful pickers on its stage.
During the break, we visited with Tony and learned that he’d recently suffered a mild heart attack, his second.
“Skinny as a rail and I’ve got heart trouble,” he smiled. “They put in a stint this time. But I feel pretty good.”
And he’s thinking of relocating from Los Angeles to the Austin area next year. - William Michael Smith