Eliza Gilkyson has been making albums for over 30 years, and she's the rare artist whose music revels in the lessons she's learned along the way. As a songwriter and vocalist, Gilkyson's recordings sound like the work of a woman who has been following her muse for quite some time, and while many musicians seem weary of the chase at a similar point in their career, if anything, Gilkyson seems significantly more lively and engaged than she did through much of the '80s and ‘90s. 2011's Roses at the End of Time is a strong, mature work that's also fresh, confident, and full of passion, and there are plenty of artists half her age who would be thrilled to sound as emotionally powerful as Gilkyson does on this disc. While her roots in folk-leaning singer/songwriter material are audible on tunes like "Vayan al Norte" (a compassionate story of the lives of illegal immigrants) and the romantic title track, she also delivers some smart and wiry rock & roll on "Looking for a Place," slinks along with bluesy swagger on "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," and pairs her tale of folks fiddling while their culture burns, "2153," with a whimsical but pointed musical backdrop complete with steel guitar and tuba. While Gilkyson hasn't shied away from issues on her post-millennial albums, Roses at the End of Time strikes a balance between the personal and the political, dealing with issues but putting their human consequences first, and that suits the heart and soul that Gilkyson has put into this music. Her son, Cisco Ryder, has done a splendid job as producer and engineer on this project, bringing together a fine ensemble of musicians and giving these songs musical settings that suit them well without distracting from Gilkyson's full and powerful vocals and literate lyrics. If a new artist released an album as strong and well-crafted as Roses at the End of Time as their debut, they'd likely be hailed as a major new force on the contemporary singer/songwriter scene; just because it's the work of a seasoned veteran doesn't mean it's too late for Gilkyson to be celebrated as a talent deserving of a larger and wider recognition.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming