With a husky voice very much akin to David Gray, Chris Pureka hits us full-tilt with “Wrecking Ball,” a cover of the Bob Dylan/Ketch Secor original, assuring the uninitiated listener through her impressive arrangement that her third album, How I Learned To See In The Dark, is the real deal. Pureka’s been working the fringes of the folk scene since her debut EP in 2001, but she’s shown a remarkable willingness to develop her sound incrementally on her subsequent two albums and an EP, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this third effort is a multi-layered Americana album to rival anything you’ve heard in the Americana vein this year.
Beyond the opening cover, which is certainly impressively developed, Pureka varies her musical brush strokes as she fills this aural canvas with originals in the same vein, focusing on stories of relationships and interactions between people trying to make a living and stake their claim on the American dream. “Hangman” speaks for itself lyrically, so she arranges the musical backdrop to be a bare-bones guitar melody, which allows the mournful vocals to shine even as light strings accent the story of a relationship in tatters. And “Lowlands” features a more upbeat arrangement as she sings of living life on a ledge, looking for a way to survive as a world unravels, somewhat echoing (at least musically) Langhorne Slim’s “In The Midnight.”
For fans of everything from Brandi Carlile to Langhorne Slim, Pureka’s take on folk music is one that deserves wider exposure. She’s never going to be a pop songwriter, but there’s definitely a niche beyond the Boston scene for an album this varied and addictive.
Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.