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In a town filled with great songwriters, Eliza Gilkyson certainly sits somewhere near the pinnacle of the Austin Americana scene. Across a stunning four-album span, she has consistently managed that most difficult of tricks, to be both deeply humanistic and magically entertaining while avoiding entirely the purposelessly ethereal. There are all kinds of folk singers clubbing us over the head with obvious (and often self-serving, career-building) message songs but, like the master writer she is, Gilkyson cuts through the jungle of posturing leftist verbiage and conservative spin with songs like "Highway 9" and "Man of God," a stinging rebuke of the President's hijacking of religious language in support of his agenda. A long-time opponent of the Iraq war, Gilkyson leaves very little wiggle room with lines like "homophobes in the high command / waitin' for the rapture like it's Disneyland." This insanely talented woman effectively uses her lyrical spirituality to expose "Compassionate Conservatism" for the public relations scam that it is. She packs a political punch that is as entertaining and blue-collar as the work of Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, and that's rare company indeed. -- William Michael Smith
Eliza Gilkyson performs Thursday, April 5, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 713-528-5999.