Ser­ena Ry­der’s hol­i­day joy

On Christ­mas Kisses, the singer aims for “in­no­cence and awe and ex­cite­ment” with her new hol­i­day of­fer­ing.

The Coast - - FRONT PAGE - BY BREN­NAN MCCRACKEN

Ser­ena Ry­der Thurs­day, De­cem­ber 6, 8pm Casino Nova Sco­tia, Schooner Room, 1983 Up­per Wa­ter Street $60 tick­e­tat­lantic.com

In the mid­dle of a con­ver­sa­tion about her new Christ­mas al­bum, Ser­ena Ry­der can’t help but sing just a hint of it. “Like, what song is this,” she gig­gles, be­fore singing a line—the joy sur­mounts the shoddy phone con­nec­tion. “Like what? It’s ‘I’ll Be Home for Christ­mas.’”

Her new record, Christ­mas Kisses, in­cludes a peppy orig­i­nal song of the same name plus nine cov­ers of hol­i­day stan­dards. Through­out a brief con­ver­sa­tion, Ry­der doesn’t wa­ver from that feel­ing of sim­ple, hon­est joy: This mu­sic is pure, she says, and “ex­cit­ing in a way that re­leas­ing a record has never been.”

Mu­si­cally, Christ­mas Kisses breaks from the folk-rock sound that Ry­der is best known for; its sound is in­debted to jazz greats like Ella Fitzger­ald and Nina Si­mone, the artists whose mu­sic first cap­ti­vated her as a child and still bring her back to a feel­ing of youth­ful won­der.

“It’s my favourite kind of Christ­mas mu­sic,” she says. “It’s the stuff that just sounds so good, it’s the clas­sics.”

While her up­com­ing ap­pear­ances—in­clud­ing a show tonight at Casino Nova Sco­tia—may be this record’s live de­but, the shows also rep­re­sent a full-cir­cle mo­ment for Ry­der. “Jin­gle Bell Rock,” which she faith­fully cov­ers on the record, was also one of a hand­ful of songs she per­formed at her very first gig. Pic­ture eightyear-old Ry­der, poised on stage at the Le­gion in Mill­brook, On­tario, singing about rock­ing the night away for a sparse crowd of fam­ily mem­bers and ag­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers. It’s a mag­i­cal scene, al­most too good to be true.

“That sense of in­no­cence and awe and ex­cite­ment that you get as a lit­tle kid has been com­ing back to me through this record, which is re­ally amaz­ing,” she says. “It’s made me fall in love with the spirit of Christ­mas in a to­tally dif­fer­ent way.”

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