From Woody Guthrie's tales of "Tom Joad" and
"Pretty Boy Floyd" to more contemporary voices like
Tracy Chapman, there is a rich storytelling tradition running
through the history of American music. Today, as always, few songwriters
are able to channel emotion into tales of universal heartbreak,
struggle, and redemption. Massachusetts native Chris Pureka
is among that rare breed of artist. With her second full-length
album, last year's Dryland, she displays an uncanny ability
to express her own joy and sorrow and reflect something much bigger
than herself - an ability that is the hallmark of the most affecting
American folk and country music.
Her songs, a skillful blend of those two genres, are held together
by her weathered vocals, understated acoustic guitar, masterful
songwriting, and the soul of poet much wiser than her 27 years.
Dryland is breathtaking from the opening bars of the instrumental
introduction through her solo acoustic performance on the captivating
title track. Pureka's affecting alto can be fragile or defiant,
disquieting or inspiring, capable of sounding broken and then
of transforming that sorrow into hope. And, while her songs are
largely introspective, the record feels timeless and universal.
Her evocative lyrics are a large part of the record's appeal.
"Dryland" is just one example of the poetry found in
all of Pureka's songs: "I'm holding myself, waiting and waiting
in the belly of a boat, praying for dryland / I can slide through
the days or drink them like water / hope I'll wake up again to
a morning song."
Every track on Dryland is inspired. The restrained and
reflective "These Pages," the orchestrated and spirited
"Momentary Thief," the emotionally rich "31 And
Falling" are highlights, but the record washes over like
a single wave of feeling and disarming beauty. Pureka also proves
a master interpreter with her cover of Gillian Welch's
"Everything Is Free." The record doesn't break any new
ground, but Pureka's classicist approach is what makes her music
so vital. She is a synthesist, not an innovator, and this stellar
record proves that preserving our musical traditions is as important
as creating new ones - and is a welcome reminder of the enduring
power of America's folk and country music heritage.
2. These Pages
3. So It Goes
4. Swann Song
5. Come Back Home
6. Momentary Thief
7. Everything Is Free
8. Compass Rose
9. 31 And Falling
10. Cruel And Clumsy
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