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Trained as a classical violinist, Eliza grew up listening to folk and blues on her Fisher-Price record player, but had little vocal instruction. She took up the fiddle after falling in love with old timey music and soon began writing songs of her own. Guitar came next, and then mandolin and banjo. Her music regularly draws comparisons to Gillian Welch, for it’s homage to Appalachian roots, but the quality and timbre of her voice call to mind some of the great jazz vocalists.
“I’m in love with that banjo-fiddle girl,” said veteran Chicago rocker Ike Reilly, upon hearing Eliza Blue play for the first time at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis in September, 2008. That Reilly singled out Eliza for his smart-ass praise was noteworthy, as the stage was crowded with world-class talent, including Reilly, Billy Bragg, the Roots’ Boots Riley, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, and Minneapolis songwriters Jennifer Markey and myself.
Reilly isn’t alone. “I’m in love with Eliza Blue,” or something close to that, has been a typical response to the haunting, timeless music Ms. Blue has been casting out in Twin Cities clubs, pubs, and theaters over the last few years. Now the rest of the world will discover her organic magic, as Eliza releases her most full-bodied work to date, The Road Home.
“I recorded almost all the album in the attic of my apartment with one mic and a Mbox mini plugged into a laptop,” said Ms. Blue. “When I first began playing my music in public I was plagued by intense stage fright. This carried over into the studio. I decided to buy some basic recording equipment because I wanted to hear what I would sound like if no one was listening. The Road Home is the result.”
Somehow, that setting translates to the sound of The Road Home, which kicks off with the plaintive “Ask Me Dance” and concludes with a reprise of the same song, this time with a ‘choir’ of songwriter friends. The journey – from solo voice to concluding chorus – is an apt one for Eliza, whose singular artistry coupled with communal warmth echoes around the Twin Cities music scene.
“There were no expectations with this album when I started, so, in a way, it’s the truest thing I could say, or play, or sing. The opening lines from the record are ‘What is a body, a house for a soul. What is a road but a way to get home.’ Finding peace inside your own skin, finding your own truth - for me, that’s the journey.”