It’s been 6 years since her last album, Sister of Mine and a lot can happen in the span of 6 years: births, deaths, marriages, divorce, etc. Wreckhouse is Sherry Ryan’s 4th album, and like each previous release, the songs on Wreckhouse are a soundtrack for all of life’s twists and turns, heartaches and hurrahs. Through it all, Ryan’s warm voice blankets you with comfort, even if you want to crawl under that blanket with a bottle of your preferred whiskey.
Ryan has always melded country, folk, and blues together easily. While she doesn’t set out to reinvent herself, Wreckhouse opens big in a way that feels different from previous albums. The first track (and single), “Natural Law,” kicks in with swirling organ, electric guitars, and a steady, driving beat. Sounding a bit like Chrissy Hynde, Ryan steps to the mic and confidently delivers this pop-rock number with the right amount of country swagger.
If you’re a fan of Ryan’s signature heartbreaker ballads though, fear not: there’s heartbreak a plenty to go around. On “Long Awaited Question,” Ryan confesses, “I’m afraid to ask do you feel better without me, I’m afraid the last thing on your mind is me.” “Cool and Clear,” “On Paper,” and “After Whiskey Before Breakfast”; they’re all beautiful, classic Sherry Ryan tearjerkers.
Still, one of my favourite qualities of Ryan’s as a songwriter has always been her sense of humour: never one to wallow facedown, Ryan dusts herself off with cheeky reprieves throughout the album.
“Stop The Trains” is one such moment. Written with her father Jim, for whom the album is dedicated, the song tells the story of working the trains in Wreckhouse, Newfoundland, an infamous stretch of rail where high winds were known to blow trains straight of their tracks.
It’s a toe-tapping, honky-tonk shuffle in the vein of Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams, and it’s got all the hallmarks of a country classic in the making.
On the album’s quieter moments, the decision to record live off the floor works perfectly. Ryan’s rich voice holds so much nuance within it. It’s earnest and even delicate at times, yet equally purposeful and powerful. All of this comes through effortlessly on songs like “Cool and Clear,” and “Paper.” On songs like “Natural Law,” and “Ferry Won’t Wait,” though, the crackling energy of the live band can jockey a bit too much for attention with Ryan’s voice.
Sherry Ryan can pen tunes with the best of them, but it’s that voice that immediately draws you in. Anne Murray, Camera Obscura’s Tracey Anne Campbell, and the inevitable comparisons to Lucinda Williams, all come to mind, but really, Ryan has an arresting voice that’s all her own.
If you’ve been a fan of her’s up to now, Wreckhouse surely won’t disappoint. It’s Sherry Ryan hitting her stride in full, offering you a seat for the ride, through it all, thick and thin. Standout tracks: “Stop The Train,” “I Made It On My Own.”
-Sandy May, theovercast.ca