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Review: Erja Lyytinen – ‘Stolen Hearts’

Stolen Hearts is the latest studio album from “the Finnish slide goddess” (as described by The Blues Magazine), her first since the critically acclaimed tribute to Elmore James, 2014’s ‘The Sky Is Crying’. ‘Stolen Hearts’ is an album that works on many fronts, a fantastic mix of contemporary blues, some funk and rock, but all with lashings and lashings of incredible guitar playing. Maybe it’s the shots of Erja Lyytinen playing a Fender, but at times she reminds me of the legendary Bonnie Raitt. To these ears, at least, she has the same worldly style of singing.

The title track also serves as album opener, laid back with a nice mellow vibe, the song soon kicks into life around two minutes when Lyytinen lets fly with a stunning solo. The vocals are relaxed in places, natural and unforced. They give the song an organic feel which fits in well with the staggering playing. ‘Rocking Chair’ has a bass-heavy intro, which leads into some nice fuzzy guitar breaks. Most of the vocals are in a spoken word style, which help give it an edge. The playing is, again, soulful, and a joy to listen to. The funk comes in on ‘Love Laboratory’, which grooves like a motherfucker. ‘24 Angels’ shows a softer side to Erja Lyytinen, with a gorgeous dreamy intro. The light guitar sound soon gives way to a storming slide solo, which sounds massive through a decent sound system, certainly filling the room. ’Black Ocean’ features another fantastic heavy bass groove, working alongside a heavy riff to form seven minutes of sheer bliss. The guitar work echoes Dave Gilmour in places, and I can imagine that this track will be stretched out into a monstrous jam live. The fact that it’s seven minutes long gives Lyytinen the chance to stretch out and flex her muscles. The lengthy solo mid song is simply sublime.

Every blues album needs a slow number, and ‘Stolen Hearts’ has ‘Slowly Burning’. The slowly burning in question being a relationship that is slowly burning out.  As a genre, the blues is mostly associated with tales of heartache and woe, “Woke up this morning and my baby was gone”… that kind of thing. Sure, the subject matter is not exactly cheerful, but then again, life does throw shit at you, so nut up and move on. The title of my never-to-be-released blues album…’Nut Up And Move On’. The pacing of the album dictates that after the heartache comes relief. ‘Lover’s Novels’ offers that relief with its fast paced jaunty shuffle and blistering slide solos. ’Silver Stones’ slows it back down again on what seems a deeply personal song about mental illness. A soft and mesmerising guitar, along with a heartfelt vocal. On the flip side, ‘Awakening’ is a positive, feel-good few moments about being in a long relationship and falling in love again with your other half. Very light and perfect Radio 2 material. ‘City Of Angels’ is the biggie on the album, a tale of contrasts in Los Angeles that burns slowly. The guitars are a great mix of slide and country twang. Erja Lyytinen delivering her strongest vocal performance during these five memorable minutes. ‘Broken Eyes’ ends the album with a simple piano and vocals only tale of lost love. Had Lyytinen written this for Alicia Keys, then the Finn would have a best songwriter Grammy sitting on her shelf right now. Simple as that.

‘Stolen Hearts’ is available from April 7th.

Review: Dave Stott

Erja Lyytinen live image courtesy of Laurence Harvey

 

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