Western Massachusetts attracts singer/songwriters like California grows fields of poppies: it's a combination of climate and community, atmosphere and light. Chris Pureka fits right into that mecca of musicians nestled into the hills surrounding Northampton and Amherst, and directly into the heart of what's young and fresh in acoustic music today.
Possessing a voice that's hard to pin down, but lies somewhere on the softer side of Melissa Etheridge and Stevie Nicks, Pureka captivates with a soft vibrato with a hint of sand rather than gravel. It's the kind of voice that draws you in because it is both tough and vulnerable - world weary yet willing to see things anew.
Pureka knows how to both turn a lyric and nimbly finger pick a tune on the guitar. Her debut CD, Driving North, captures those twin talents in droves. The songs here document a journey through a difficult relationship and a painful breakup, where the landscape of memory takes over. The sky is dark, the emotions are raw, and the memories are wistful and full of longing.
The CD opens with Silo Song, which whisks us along the road of secrecy and the difficulty to communicate freely and openly. Pureka's compelling voice and driving guitar kicks this project wide open.
The landscape remains dark and gray in the tune 3 A.M. It's in the early hours of the morning when you know that you've been chasing that elusive someone who you just can't get out of your mind. Loneliness never sounded so good.
Burning Bridges reads like a short story detailing love and regret:
Reprieve provides just that - an instrumental piece with Pureka on guitar without the vocal. Her wonderfully deft fingers cave out a tune that speaks as eloquently as her voice and lyrics about the land of pain and regret.
While the landscape is dark, and there is plenty of sorrow, and failed love and connection abound, Driving North is far from melancholy. The title itself, like the driving force of Pureka's guitar, implies movement forward. There is a brightness in Pureka's voice and a vulnerability in her lyrics that imply a willingness to try again - to do it all over again, in fact.
Pureka's sound is fresh and new. Her songs unfold like beautifully written short stories - you want to hear about the journey rather than the destination. Chris Pureka has a brilliant career ahead of her. Driving North is a magical beginning.
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