Chris Pureka | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chris Pureka 

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There's a bleakness in the Berkshires, and Chris Pureka, a folk chanteuse based in Northampton, Massachusetts, is consumed by it. In her vision of New England, small-town intimacy and small-minded provincialism go hand in hand, and the road that takes you from a dying mill town may deposit you, a hundred miles later, in an even more forsaken hollow. On Pureka's first full-length, the self-released Driving North, both her story lines and her choked soprano vocals--think Stevie Nicks singing Leonard Cohen--invoke that regional claustrophobia with an intensity that verges on painful. Her introspective, almost solipsistic lyrics are shot through with images of potential (and usually failed) liberation: her protagonists linger longingly outside parked cars, gaze across "fields that lead me far down dirt roads," or dream of escaping to New York, but they seldom get anywhere. When someone does hit the road, it's usually a journey into the void. On "Cynical," Pureka sings of "grinnin' down the highway, screamin' at the top of my lungs, prayin' for the courage to do something reckless," and her voice quivers with what sounds like madness; but when the trip gets cut short, the narrator stumbles drunkenly through the streets "getting meaner by the minute," and Pureka's fingerpicking attains a near apocalyptic fury. Lazy Sunday headlines; Them Damn Kids open. Fri 5/13, 9 PM, Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood, 773-338-9862 or 773-259-6575, $5.

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