Listening to any song, or collection of them, there’s usually one thing that stands out straightaway. In the case of Canadian singer-songwriter Tanya Ryan and her new album, Open, it’s her voice. Not just because it’s technically so good but because it’s strong and warm, inviting the listener into her songs while also letting you know that she’s going to make sure you’ll enjoy the experience. Authority is not a quality that is often ascribed to voices, but it’s an important one: it’s the quality that tells the listener they’re in really good hands, and it stems from an artist being confident not just in that voice but in their songs.
Ryan has good reason to be confident in the songs on this album. Stylistically they cover country rock, and pop, ballads and uptempo tracks. Lyrically Ryan examines different types of love: romantic, maternal, as well as love of self, and of ambitious pursuits. Ryan handles the range of styles and moods with that aforementioned authority and also with great tenderness. It’s the care taken by an artist who wants to do the best by the audience as well as by the songs.
Ryan has been developing these skills for quite some time. Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, she wrote her first song at age seven, and kept singing, songwriting, and playing various instruments before moving to the Alberta Foothills. Once there, she won the Calgary Stampede’s Nashville North Star Contest in 2012 and was one of six artists chosen for the Canadian Country Music Association’s 2014 Discovery Program. That amount of dedication and experience to her craft is evident in these songs, some of which are gloriously uplifting and some of which will break your heart, in the best way (and in the case of the last track, ‘My Heart Song’, it’s both). Ryan is prepared to access her own emotions in order to help us access and understand ours – this is one of the roles and responsibilities of an artist, and it’s clear from Open that she takes that seriously, and has produced a seriously good album accordingly.