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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Kristina Stykos

River of Light

Review by Gary Hill

This set is quite cool. It would be easy to land this under folk music or even country, but not everything fits those categories. There is a wide range here. The one thing that seems to hold this together, though, is a sense of it being genuine. There is a charm that comes from the feeling that you are really getting a peak inside the mind and the world of Kristina Stykos. It seems an intriguing world, too.

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Track by Track Review
State Line Diner
Southern rock merges with country on the introduction to this. It drops back a bit for the entrance of the vocals. The first verse is set more in a folk zone. The cut rocks out as it continues. This has some catchy hooks and classic sounds. I dig the guitar solo on this.
I Like a Hard Hearted Man
Old school blues, electrified rock and folk music merge on this cut. It has some hints of country, too. There is a rather timeless vibe to this thing. It has some even tastier guitar work than the opener did.
Walking These Ridges
Intricate guitar is at the heart of the opening to this. The cut has a definite folk music vibe. It's a more intimate piece at the start. That arrangement is fairly stripped back. The cut shifts out to a fast paced and rocking kind of number with a lot of bluegrass and hoe-down texture to it. It's balanced with a return to the mellower zones and some meanderings in that territory, too. The fiddle really brings a lot to this piece.
Since You Asked
A guitar and voice arrangement brings more of a mainstream folk rock sound to this thing. The cut gets a bit more of a rock edge as it continues, but it remains on the mellower stripped back side. There is a real power brought to it, in part because of that less involved treatment. This is one of the highlights of the set for me.
At the Edge
Coming in with a fast paced, down-home jam, this gradually evolves, eventually working out to a rather funky jam. It has some serious jazz elements built into it. This is among the most modern sounding things here. It's also another highlight. It has such a cool groove and style.
In the Cleansing Rain
The organ bits on this lend a retro edge. The cut has a lot of folk rock built into it beyond that. This is another stylish piece. Some of the guitar work on this later leans toward progressive rock.
Caught by the Heart
Speaking of progressive rock, this track at least lands under art rock. It has an intriguing and rather complex musical arrangement. That serves as the backdrop for a poetry reading kind of vocal performance. Various layers of instrumentation at times play it mellow and at times really soar. There are sung vocals that come over the top at points. This is such an interesting and compelling piece of music. It's one of my favorites here.
River of Light
More of a driving arrangement and energy hold this number. It has some hints of a jazz vibe along with blues and rock. It's a cool tune, and actually an effective one, but somehow feels a bit of a let-down from the last piece. That's because that one is just so good.
Breaking Trail
More traditional folk rock meets country is on display here. The tune works pretty well, but is not a standout.
Climb This Ground
Intricate acoustic guitar starts this, and the cut drives forward based on just a driving progression on that instrument. The vocals come in over the top, delivering the first verse in that arrangement. Some more instrumentation joins, more as icing on the cake as it continues. Further down the road there is some cool echoey Americana in the mix. Overall, though, this is more of a pure folk styled cut. It gets some serious energy and groove in later sections with other instrumentation and melodies emerging.
Waging Peace
Dramatic and mellower, this is another that lands under the general zone of folk music. It's another solid piece and has some cool electric guitar work later.
Blessed Light
There is a cool, almost proggy groove this cut. It's a mellower song in a lot of ways, but the dreamy quality and general concept land this as one of the highlights of the set.
Piano brings this into being. Guitar joins after a short time. The two weave intricate and beautiful patterns of melody. This instrumental is quite pretty and really works well to end the set in style. It drops back to just the piano for the final movement.
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