Unlikely Emergency

Serena Ryder

Isadora Records, 2004


REVIEW BY: Herb Hill


A few years back, I went to see Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman in concert.  They played some of their old hits from the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive days.  It was great; lots of nostalgic fun and games.  However, if you met me on the street the next day and asked me to tell you about the concert, you would get very little information about the boys and would instead be subjected to a stream of wide-eyed, slack-jawed, fan-boy style verbiage regarding the opening act:  Serena Ryder.  I should have reviewed one of her albums right then and there, but time is something that I don’t have in abundance and life intrudes on things we want to do.  But today, I have found the time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Unlikely Emergency is a perfect introductory experience for the new Serena fan.  As Ms. Ryders first full-length disc, it has enough rough edges to trick you into believing she is new to the music biz.  That feeling won’t last long; by the middle of the album, you will be convinced that some magical process has allowed a practiced and mature veteran chanteuse to somehow wriggle her way inside this youngster’s corporeal being.

At the time of this album’s release, Ryder was only twenty-years-old.  Now let me be clear. – I am fifty years old this year. I grew up listening to incredible and diverse vocalists in the rock and folk genres, and I am the absolute definition of the matured, jaded music fan. I have seen and heard some great material, but in terms of pure vocal talent, I have never heard anything better than this. Ryder is a bottle of fine vintage red wine, and like a fine wine, she exudes flavours and aromas of things you would never expect to find by just looking at the outside of the bottle.  Look at the CD cover: there she is, nose ring and all staring out at you looking for all the world like any other young woman of the times. Now open the bottle and breathe. The obvious vocal comparison to Etheridge flows up and around you, but there are Joplin and Chapman in there also, and way down there is a hint of Buffy Ste. Marie. Ryder herself names Neil Young and Culture Club as musical influences.  Can’t get much more diverse than that, I suppose.

There are ten tracks on Unlikely Emergency.  From the celebratory “Sing Sing” to the shiver-inducing “Skin Crawl” (my personal fave), to the astonishing rendition of “At Last” (yes, the one from 1941), it is almost too good to be true.  Living up here in the Great White North, floating directly on the froth that blasts forth from the constant U.S. media volcano, it is easy to miss locally grown Canadian talent.  Don’t miss this one.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Herb Hill and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Isadora Records, and is used for informational purposes only.