Most albums are journeys. They can be sonic escapades that take you to places that could only be imagined. They could be a compilation of songs about one’s personal travels, journeys through time or places. Then there are the artists who are taking us on journeys of not just their lives but of others, connecting the listener with the protagonists of their stories and making them feel empathy for them or to be them. Their albums are like novels, stories that extend beyond oneself and to others. Stories about the here and now, of the present, and the future. Such artists are rare breeds. Woody Guthrie was an early pioneer. Bob Dylan mastered it. Joe Fletcher is one such, contemporary artist. Add Dana Sipos to the list.
From the northern city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Sipos lives a nomadic lifestyle, traversing the country by canoe, bike, or train, and finding solace and inspiration in her surroundings. The sights and sounds are heard on her new album, Roll Up the Night Sky, a 12-song compilation of wonderful folk-noir. “Old Sins” kicks the album off in a melancholic way, as Sipos says farewell to those around her as she heads into the unknown world. Beneath the simple strumming of the acoustic guitar are sounds of water, a creaky floor, and a cavernous room. It’s a chilling opener and introduction to Sipos.
“Morningside”, though, opens our ears with a lush folk song that echoes of Marta Pacek and fellow northern resident Sarah McDougall. And whereas the opening track was an ode to the past, “Morningside” is a recollection of what was and what is to come.
The two tracks that may best reflect Sipos’ terrific storytelling and mesmerizing sound are “Portraits”, which was the second single shared on the album and released in March, and the haunting “Shadows”. The former is a song of self-discovery and freedom, of letting go and making oneself naked, vulnerable of things to come. It might be an introspective story for Sipos, recanting her own experiences as she set off into the wilderness. The latter shares a similar storyline, about coming out of the darkness and overcoming past failures to find new beginnings. On the song, Sipos uses wonderful imagery to depict the struggles people face, such as the rattling of the windows during a storm and the aisle being a path to two unequal ends.
The illustrative songwriting continues on “The Night Sky”, using the moon in the sky to depict that for many it is the only roof over one’s head. “A Coronary Tale” is like an old-fashion fable, telling the story of an individual’s mistakes but the moral of the song is to move on. “Holy People” is probably the most arousing track with the addition of strings to create a soaring atmosphere. Another introspective track and one about the internal conflict many face, the lyric, “there’s a storm raging in the seams of your skin” is brilliant.
The album ends off almost where it began with “Full Moon Sinners”. A solemn, haunting track with undertones of Celtic music, Sipos’ voice is calm while the story could come from Irish folklore or an Aboriginal tale about being alone in the wild and the only thing that could be found is oneself. And on Roll Up The Night Sky, Sipos shares with his stories of vulnerability and discovery, stories that could only be told by an artist who has experienced them.
Roll Up The Night Sky is out tomorrow on Muddy Roots Music Recordings. Get it at Muddy Roots, iTunes, and Amazon. You can also hear the entire album on SoundCloud. Those in Eastern Canada and around the New York City area can catch her on tour. Dates are below.
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