Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
One gets the feeling that when Chris Pureka's songs wake up in the morning, as their skins have all those sheet wrinkles still pressed into the sides of their faces and arms, that they feel even more bewildered and disoriented than they should. The Northhampton, Massachusetts, singer-songwriter -- though perky, sweet and personable as all hell when you're face-to-face with her -- puts her songs in that place. She takes them to these incredibly dark spots, takes the blindfolds off and lets them gasp and shiver a little bit, waking up in the shadows of cold winds and fractured lives. The fractures are their own, or ones that they've been privy to over the years, sharing the tragedies with her movements and the long nights that they all spend together, hearing each other breathe and shift.
Pureka makes the kinds of songs that give you the thought that she could use comforting, but this is just the idea upon first blush. You'd quickly come to the conclusion that she's mastered the art of dealing with all of the sadness that she's known over the years and you're listening to it. The sadness plays the main character in all Pureka tunes, stopping us in our tracks to remove our caps and place them over our hearts, casting our eyes downward in respect. It's so easy to appreciate the blues that she tends to get to in her narratives, taking us to those exact places that caused her so much pain, letting them bask in their glorious hurt and suffering, making them feel as if there have been resolutions since they broke out. Things have gotten better, we're sure of it. She sings like a more countrified Joni Mitchell or a less countrified Gillian Welch - somewhere in that between area - and the sorrow seems to roll up through her body, from her tippy toes, spilling out of her like a red carpet, inviting us closer for an exclusive look.
With this new collection of songs, Pureka carries us into the sticky, deceitful loves that she gets bottled up with. In the song "Broken Clock," she's sitting there with a tourniquet and a whole lot of time on her hands to apply the pressure and stop the bleeding. Obviously, the attention to that one important detail - and the dressing of the wounds, eating oneself back to a healthy weight and energy level - leaves a person with plenty of time to think about what got them here. Of all the things that could be thought in these moments, many of them will melt away, but these are some key points that are going to get carried around for a long time and they'll bubble up when they're needed the least. They can only be forgotten for so long. Then again, they can only be held on for so long as well, and that's where the tricky maneuvering comes in. Pureka deals with her pain as it deals with her and she loses her mind when she doesn't feel it any longer. As she sings, "What I miss the most is knowing exactly where it hurts," you are feeling someone who doesn't know what it will feel like to be free and clear of their pain. Pureka, while writing very personally, asks the question for most of us: Who are we and what will we be and feel like without our devils and our pains?