Review: Kristina Stykos - River of Light (Thunder Ridge Records / 19 January 2019)

Kristina Stykos - River of Light
(Thunder Ridge Records / 19 January 2019)

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"I'm a poet-musician working at the outer boundaries of the music industry, and I believe that we can all take control of our own message."

She's got a gift for creating hook-laden songs in the Americana/country style, with a nice swing underneath the breathy, spoken word style vocals. She sings about roadside diners, with a slant on life that's all her own.

The day that I surrender
And lay my chassis down
And empty my compartments
And crumble to the ground
I'll still be full of living
Cause I ain't done yet

I Like A Hard Hearted Man is vintage acoustic blues, with a slow and relentless groove. She's assembled a solid backing team of musicians for the recording, including Jackson Browne guitarist Val McCallum.

Since You Asked is a stand out track, with a catchy harmonic pattern as a backdrop to her visceral poetry. It highlights the strength of her artistry.

Musically, she mines a lot of territory within that Americana-roots-folk vein. At The Edge brings in an edge of funk and hip hop. In The Cleansing Rain turns jazzy.

Her self-made credo is an honest one. Kristina solidified her launch as an audio engineer in 2008, earning a certificate in studio production from the Berklee School of Music. As of 2019, she holds producer credits for upwards of 30 albums created at her hill-top recording loft, Pepperbox Studio: a solar, wind and generator powered, fully off-grid facility. She is also founder-owner of a small, Americana label, Thunder Ridge Records.

Kristina was awarded "Best Songwriter of 2013" by Vermont's Times Argus newspaper, for her 5th solo album, Wyoming Territory. The album was supported in its development by the Ucross Foundation & Brush Creek artist residencies of Wyoming. Her first self-produced release, In the Earth's Fading Light, was awarded "Best Vermont Album of the Year" by the same paper in 2005.

Personnel: Val McCallum: guitars, bass, vocals, lap steel; Steve Mayone: guitars, bass, vocals, lap steel; Jeff Berlin: drums; Patrick Ross: fiddle, cello; Abby Jenne: vocals

Track List:
1. State Line Diner River 3:50
2. I Like a Hard Hearted Man 2:48
3. Walking These Ridges 3:28
4. Since You Asked 4:07
5. At the Edge 3:54
6. In the Cleansing Rain 3:01
7. Caught by the Heart 4:25
8. River of Light 4:26
9. Breaking Trail 3:45
10. Climb This Ground 4:13
11. Waging Peace 5:04
12. Blessed Light 3:40
13. Godspeed 4:01

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