Kristina Stykos has already made a good name for herself in the music industry as a music producer and recording engineer as well as a singer-songwriter and this year saw the release of her latest self-made album River of Light. Recorded and produced in her very own Pepperbox Studio; a solar, wind and generator powered studio that exists completely off of the grid, River of Light brings Styko’s classic country stylings and virulent ballads to life in a way that you simply cannot ignore.
Stykos and her work seem to be powered by the classic heyday of country music as her songs deal with the notions of love, loss, hard hearted men and beat up old cars. But although these aspects might adhere to the archetype of country music, the reality seems to be somewhat different. As you hear Stykos bringing these elements to life you can’t help but be struck by the deep and resolute passion in her voice. Each song is far from a notion or a context but actually echoes of her own thoughts and experiences. It turns River of Light into a beautiful love letter to the world as she accepts both the good and the bad that it has to offer. This is particularly evident in songs such as Caught by the Heart which seems almost poetic in content her with tender and evocative words taking precedent over the music.
Stykos has a striking and unique voice that is rich, husky and warming like neat whisky going down a parched throat, it seems to ignite something deep within. Passionate, dark and brooding this is an album that powerfully brings her notions to life. Surrounding this is a collection of either soft and sombre guitar medleys or hard, blasting barn dances that can shake you to the core. But there is also an element of the unknown and the unexpected to her work. Songs like At the Edge are rife with head shaking melodies but then imbued with a trace of funk and jazz with its playful bassline. River of Light seems to be peppered with little trinkets and jewels as you notice small differences in each listen; traces upon traces of fusions and amalgamations that subtly blend in to her work.
Stykos is an inspirational woman not only within her work but for the passion and love with which it is produced. Drawing inspiration from the world around her and her every experience in life she completely opens up to the world giving us her best and worst experiences in a stark and strikingly vulnerable state. As Stykos bares her soul to the world you cannot help but be drawn in deeper and deeper.
Review by Joe Knipe