Secularia (Red House)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., July 27, 2018
Notching Eliza Gilkyson's 20th album, Secularia offers the steadfast patience that permeates the veteran folk artist's tunes like a lighthouse to stormy seas. The singer exudes a poetic wisdom few songwriters achieve, and a timeless quality to the album's secular hymns hearkens Leonard Cohen. Opener "Solitary Singer," written by her grandmother and father, turns in an almost medieval reel, and "Lifelines" softly swells melody like "The Sound of Silence." Cameos from Shawn Colvin on "Conservation" and a fiercely quaking Jimmy LaFave in "Down by the Riverside" bolster the meditative calm. Gilkyson offers prayers of thanks and strength ("Sanctuary," "Seculare"), but calls those powers more from within and around her than from down on high. She recognizes a power in "all the sorrows that made me" balanced with the "beauty that saved me," and Secularia offers up that strength amid whatever darkness emerges.