Serena Ryder “If Your Memory Serves You Well” (EMI 2007)
Open to interpretation
Serena Ryder is a twenty four year old Canadian chanteuse and acoustic guitarist. On this disc she tackles a songbook comprising the best of Canadian song-smiths from the ‘modern’ classics to the positively antediluvian (well the 1920s and 30s). Sounds simple, yes? Well essentially it is a lot simpler when you have source material of this quality (Leonard Cohen, Rick Danko, Percy Faith to start with) but it would mean nothing if she didn’t carry it off vocally and arrangements wise. And there’s no doubt she does carry it off – the girl can sing alright. In fact she has a fantastic set of pipes comprising for most part Janis Joplin but with the phrasing of Nina Simone having been passed through a Carole King filter. Even that description doesn’t really do her justice; she has to be heard to be appreciated. Couple that sort of talent with a natural affinity for coming up with fine, original and surprising arrangements and you’ve got quite a piece of work on your hands. But in these Pop Idolatory and X-Factored times most serious music fans will expect a little bit more than an artist singing someone else’s stuff. You must be able to come up with original material or risk being tarred with the Simon Cowell brush. And write her own songs she does, three of them being tacked onto the end of the record. The fly in the ointment is that at fourteen tracks long the work is too long by about three tracks – and yes her own three tracks are the ones that should be jettisoned in all their twee MOR glory. Still it would be churlish not to recognise that there is a talent at work here and it must be hoped she can mature in her own songwriting. Well worth a look/listen.
Date review added: Saturday, May 26, 2007
Reviewer: Paul Villers
Related web link: www.serenaryder.com