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Serena Ryder’s pure joy 

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

INGRID JONES
  • INGRID JONES

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 eight-year-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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