The chances are that you if you’re aware of Erja Lyytinen, you consider her a blues artist in the most familiar sense.
The petite bottleneck guitarist has spent 15 years involved in a gradual but steady ascent of the ladder of the European blues market which has led to the announcement of a UK tour which comes to The Live Rooms in Chester on September 23.
Her most recent studio record, 2014’s The Sky Is Crying, is an homage to a childhood hero, the late Elmore James.
Since then the artist that Blues magazine refers to as “the Finnish slide goddess” has given birth to twins, undergone changes in her personal and professional lives and emerged with a fresh, re-energised attitude.
Seven albums into her career, latest release Stolen Hearts reveals a new facet of Lyytinen’s artistic persona.
In the past she has integrated elements of both hard rock and pop into her music. This time out, encouraged by her producer, Erja now flings the doors wide open to express what she describes as: “heartbreak, frustration, disappointment, fear of loss and yet, at the same time, the deepest love.”
With the exception of long-standing guitarist Davide Floreno, Lyytinen worked with a new group of musicians in Helsinki during the summer of 2016 and then proceeded to step even further outside of her comfort zone when multi-platinum selling engineer and producer Chris Kimsey agreed to participate in the sessions.
Kimsey is best known for having worked on many of the biggest selling albums by The Rolling Stones but his CV also includes the likes of Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, Marillion, The Quireboys and The Psychedelic Furs among many others.
Lyytinen was thrilled to fly to London to record her lead vocal tracks and then sit back and watch as the Englishman mixed the results at a studio called The State Of The Ark, equipped with a desk once owned by EMI.
In fact, Stolen Hearts was mixed on said console – the same one that Kimsey had often used with the Stones.
“Chris said that it was like meeting an old girlfriend after many years,” recalls Erja. “He sat in front of the desk and his magic started to happen.”
Since first entering a recording studio some 15 years ago, the singer/guitarist has become a bona fide star in her homeland and a fixture on the international music scene.
In that time, she has recorded in places as diverse as Helsinki, London, Berlin and Memphis, earning numerous accolades along the way.
Rooted in both traditional and modern blues, she successfully blends styles like jazz, pop, soul and rock into a sound all her own.
Born into a musical family in the town of Kuopio, Lyytinen quickly emerged as an artist to watch in her native country. She recorded her international debut Pilgrimage after signing with Germany’s prestigious Ruf Records label in 2005.
The 2006 Blues Caravan tour gave audiences in Europe and the United States a first taste of her spirited live performances.
The solo follow-up Dreamland Blues took her back to the USA to record with David and Kinney Kimbrough (sons of Mississippi blues legend Junior Kimbrough).
After two years on the road, she returned with Grip of the Blues in 2008, mixing hard-edged blues with modern R&B. Her 2010 release Voracious Love was even more adventurous while 2013’s Forbidden Fruit saw her return to more familiar territory.
The Elmore James tribute The Sky Is Crying proved to be a breakthrough. Released in 2014, it was universally hailed as her best and bluesiest recording to date. This collection of stripped-down, old-school blues convinced even the most discerning listeners that Lyytinen’s feel for the blues runs deep and that as a slide player, she has few peers.
Live in London, a sizzling live set of Elmore James covers and original material released a year later, culminated with Erja being voted the number one international solo artist by Blues Matters and Artist of the Year at the Finnish Blues Awards.
Tickets for the Chester gig are £13.75. Visit www.ents24.com for booking details.