Reviews: River of Light

[Val McCallum, Kristina Stykos, Ariel Zevon]

[Val McCallum, Kristina Stykos, Ariel Zevon]

River of Light’ is the fifth studio album from Vermont based singer-songwriter Kristina Stykos. For the most part it’s an upbeat optimistic collection of songs which have the distinct feel of poetry set to various styles of traditional Americana music. Indeed, some of the lyrics are spoken not sung. Stykos explains the meaning behind the album title as follows; “Luckily humanity will come together as tributaries do, when it rains hard enough and each twisted stream straightens out its path with unerring focus. That’s right. It’s time, for we are the River of Light.” Thought provoking, spiritual, mysterious, full of deeper meanings and insights wrapped in clever word play is basically what we’re getting here. What we’re not getting is catchy hooks and memorable refrains. It’s an album one needs to sit and listen to in a contemplative frame of mind rather than sing along to while doing the dishes. ” - John Vaites, Americana-UK

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Since she started churning out recordings on her Thunder Ridge Records imprint in 2005, Kristina Stykos has embraced a unique vision of Vermont. Her dark and complex view of life in the Green Mountains is embodied by the folk-rock songwriter's Pepperbox Studio, where she's produced her own albums and dozens more for other artists. The off-the-grid studio is scenic and homey, a quintessentially rustic Vermont setting with sweeping mountain panoramas. But life there is as isolating and unforgiving as it is beautiful. That dichotomy has long informed Stykos' music, making hers a singular Vermont voice — up to and including when she lost it. ” - Dan Bolles, Seven Days

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Appropriately born in the Greek-named Ithaca, New York, Stykos started out singing in Boston with then boyfriend Bela Fleck before, following a stint as a cook in Sweden, settling off the grid in Vermont, setting up a not-for profit organization to promote acoustic music, steeping herself in the regional folk repertoire playing with a vast array of local musicians before returning to a life as a singer-songwriter and also setting up her own hill top studio and record label.” - Mike Davies, Fatea

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River of Light” is one of those albums that constantly surprises; you never know what’s coming next. It might be a nice understated guitar fill or it might be a lyric that stops you in your tracks with its brutal honesty and intensity. More about that later, but let’s just get this out of the way now; Kristina isn’t a singer’s singer. She uses her voice very effectively as one of the instruments in the mix, but it is another instrument, not a focal point. She creates varied and interesting sounds and examples are dotted throughout the album of her use of studio techniques picked up from her career as a sound engineer.” - Allan McKay, Music Riot

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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 Stykos’s classic country stylings and virulent ballads to life in a way that you simply cannot ignore.” - Joe Knipe, Artree UK

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