Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering 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. "August 28th," from her newest collection of songs, "How I Learned To See In The Dark," shows Pureka at a point that counts as perhaps the lowest and a point that counts as somewhat healing and getting back to normal. These aren't the pits that she's dealing with in her lyrics. These are those formative moments and these influential times that force a person to rally - to deal with all the unpleasantness that seems to be everywhere all at once. It's the measure of a person, how everything gets dealt with and Pureka deals with her pains by understanding the ebbs and the flows. She sings about having herself a "coffee cup full of whiskey" and points to your broken violin, earlier on "August 28th," pointing out, "Some days there's a present at your bed/Some days there's a box full of nails/Sometimes you spend your time counting grains of sand/Some blood on your covers/Some dust in your eyes/Some train station love/We've been out there fighting the good fight. Where have you been?" It's that good fight against tragic light and darkness that continues to reoccur, but it's easier to handle the dwelling when you take to it with the glasses' bottoms up.