With her new album North, Chicago songwriter Heather Styka is headed in the right direction. Styka dances where others fear to tread, cutting to the truth with gutsy vulnerability. She combines the lyrical intricacy of folk with a catchy melodic pop sensibility and the grit of classic country in songs that are smart and disarming. In a matter of days, sequestered in a small log cabin on a lake in northern Wisconsin, Styka and noted Danish backing band The Sentimentals recorded the entirety of North, tracking most of the album live. Call it folk, call it Americana, call it alt-country, but Styka’s heartfelt croon draws as much inspiration from classic warblers such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald as it does from Gillian Welch.