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March 7, 2006

Canadian Blues CD Review

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Review / Blues
Casey Ryder / Here
Indie / 2005

Vancouver Island based composer/instrumentalist Casey Ryder covers a lot of musical territory with his 2005 release ‘Here’. With its multitude of genres from jazz through to blues, rockabilly, and country, these thirteen tracks (and three bonus tracks from his 1999 release ‘Occasional Fidelity’) highlight the artist’s creative bent.

Ryder has a quirky, playful presence, with a theatrical flair that contributes to the dynamic nature of the concept. His songwriting skills are impressive, with the strong melodies and lyrics holding this project together. He plays a variety of instruments throughout, including guitars, basses, and organ, and performs all the vocals. Drummer Damian Graham lays down the bottom end, while a full complement of guest musicians contribute to several of the tracks, allowing the arrangements to fully develop.

What is most evident are the broad influences that have brought Ryder to this point, there are touches of Kurt Weill in Ryder’s swaggering ‘Gold Digger’, a Gypsy jazz flavour in ‘Ambisextrous’, a hint of Count Basie in the tongue-in-cheek ‘Twinkie’, while the title cut ‘Here’is reminiscent of the Texas swing of Bob Wills and traditional vocal groups such as the Sons of the Pioneers. Ryder’s voice has a wide palette of colour and texture, with tinges of Tom Waits followed by a smooth crooner approach.

Generally speaking the performances run second to the songwriting concept. While Ryder and Graham form a solid rhythm section (bass is Ryder’s first instrument), things tend to fall apart when Ryder plays guitar, his skills as a soloist rather weak on the instrument. That said there are a couple of exceptions, such as his great lap steel solo on ‘Big Jim & the Twisters’, and his jazz guitar on ‘Nobody Knows You’.

‘Here’ offers something for everyone with its original blend of blues, jazz, rockabilly, rock & roll, country and Latin. Casey Ryder is bound to gain a lot of attention with his unique musical vision, and is looking at a bright future ahead.

Cindy McLeod

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