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CD Reviews: Serena Ryder
Serena Ryder: Unlikely Emergency
June 2004
By: Ami Lieberman
album cover of Serena Ryder's Unlikely Emergency

I randomly stumbled upon Serena Ryder’s website after a string of other sites led me there. After a first listen of music samples on her page, I happily accepted the job of writing this review. This hidden gem of vocal flair made me realize just how many artists with true skill exist without recognition. Finding Serena, with her colossal talent, was like finding a precious needle in the technological haystack we currently call the internet.

Unlikely Emergency, Serena Ryder’s album, is her debut full-length North American release, but don’t begin to think that she’s inexperienced. Although in her early twenties, Serena possesses quite an ability to write and play music. But, she was never vocally trained, so it comes as quite a shock that she is able to sing so well. Playing mostly around Canada, Serena has built up quite a following and continues to grow as a musician. Her album is a demonstration of wisdom, poetic freedom, and vocal surprise. She’s the Janis Joplin of modern folk rock; a young Melissa Etheridge, with an ability to fascinate her listeners with a roar in one song, and a sweet melody in another.

Sing Sing is an upbeat song that starts the album off in a positive way. Lyrically and musically, it shows that Serena is enthusiastic about music (as any true artist should be, I believe). This song also provides foreshadowing to the rest of the album: Don’t you dare hold nothing back, she sings loud and proud. And, Serena indeed is true to her words: the rest of the album is honest, pure, and poetically fresh--- it's as though reading snippets out of a private journal.

An a cappella version of the classic At Last completes the album and left me with my mouth hanging wide open, frustrated that such an artist existed so long without my knowledge. In a musical world where artists are recognized for anything other than talent (i.e., William Hung), it is a shame those with true ability often are overlooked. Luckily for Serena, her fame on the independent circuit is giving her a chance to be heard.