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ERJA LYYTINEN BAND
BBC Studio Three, Maida Vale, London
12 January 2011
You could be
forgiven for thinking that the natural effervescent personality of
Finland's 'Queen of the slide guitar', Erja Lyytinen, and the precise,
staid environment of the BBC's Maida Vale Studio 3, would at best be
antithetical and at worst act as a constraint for this vivacious
performer. But you'd be wrong.
Erja Lyytinen exudes energy, passion and drive, she also displayed a
cutting edge intensity and artistic maturity to banished any doubts in
to the four corners of the cavernous studio.
with her trusty Finnish road band, she briskly set up the gear at the
far left hand side of the spacious oblong shaped room, finally settling
into a kind of diagonal presence as producer Paul Long and his staff
encouraged the band to make the most of the space.
half an hour or so of prep time in which mikes and headphones were
tested, cables laid and levels suitably measured, it was time for the
band to do their stuff.
on one of her colourful guitars, before languidly effecting a near 360
degree pirouette to announce, 'hmm there was a reggae band in here last
And as Erja
had indicated in an interview earlier in the day, her recording career
may have been routed in the blues but her musical boundaries and natural
exuberance are not restricted by anyone genre.
the pre-session sound check, the band launched into several loose limbed
jams which in the space of 20 minutes took in a range of influences that
all found their range via Erja's dazzling playing.
and musical MD of her band turns out to be the studious but quietly
effective Davide Floreno who's crisp and at times steely notes were
reminiscent of BB King and Hubert Sumlin. His clipped delicate notes at
times fell perfectly either side of Erja's mighty slide improvisations.
And so after
a riff driven stomp that could have lasted another 5 minutes and a heavy
duty, low down and dirty shuffle on which the rhythm section of drummer
Matti Vallius and bass player Miri Miettinen blew away the cobwebs, the
band pronounced themselves ready for the task at hand.
With Erja in
a startling red outfit in sharp contrast to her black clad band, the
session had an air of spontaneity.
So while the
set list was already planned, each solo and guitar break took on its own
unique feel as the band proceeded to test the studio's acoustics to the
limit. It was not so much a case of heavy on the volume as Erja seeking
to explore a wide range of tonal colours and sharp dynamics to cut
through the dead room like fork lightning.
Love' the title track of her new album, turned out to be a heavy duty
wah wah riff driven pile driver, introduced by a deftly delivered
feedback intro and with humorous and poignant lyrics at its core.
And as Erja
explains; 'I really like writing stories and relationship songs, but
they are not all necessarily about me'. The tough rendition of the song
also showed she's unafraid of exploring a wave of warm sounds, and
working a groove to its breaking point before the guitar takes over. Her
guitar playing may be as her previous album title suggested in the 'Grip
of the Blues' but she's not hemmed in by any one style.
On the fiery
'Don't Let A Good Woman Down' she launched into her dobro with real
venom, which led to a second take as the meshy sound of Erja vigorously
striking the strings carried over into the mix.
Water' featured some dazzling slide laying and was a clear example of
Erja's determination to be a crossover artist, with its poppy refrain
offering enough to elevate a slide tour de force into commercial
territory, complete with an outrageous stop-time mid point.
finally to some finger picking for good measure on Blind Willie
Johnson's 'Soul of a Man'. And if she finished with a reworked
traditional blues, you need look no further than the variety of the four
song set to emphasize her broad sweep from blues through to rock and
She led her
band with raw passion but also offered subtle panache on the more
delicate notes and again brusque understated power in her slide playing.
hard to see why Erja is at the forefront of what one Euro publication
called 'a young generation of European blues artists who have succeeded
in bringing the traditional American blues to our time'.
that observation is certainly partly true enough, the session
sparklingly showcased Erja's many talents as a meaningful lyricist, an
exploratory guitar player whose intuitive interplay with her skilled
musicians makes for some roller coaster, vibrant rocking blues music
with real fizz.
76 years the old Maida Vale studios has seen them come and go, from
Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bowie and the Beatles to contemporary rock bluesers
like Bonamassa, Trout and the Canadian roots rockers Arcade Fire.
is always the BBC Symphony Orchestra, but even the unlikely aggregation
of the classical and rock's aristocratic heavyweights (with perhaps the
notable exception of the Fab 4) would be hard pushed to deliver this
kind of vibrant set.
Erja Lyytinen's session is scheduled to be broadcast on BBC2's
Paul Jones R&B Show on Monday 28 Feb 2011.
video by Alan
Interview with Erja
Lyytinen, 12 January 2011
Lyytinen - March
Mar 2 The
Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton
Mar 3 Fifestock Music Festival, Backstage at the Green
Mar 4 The Ferry The Ferry Glasgow, Scotland
Sun Mar 6 Boom Boom Club @ Sutton Utd FC, Sutton
Mon Mar 7 The Famous Monday Blues Club, Bullingdon Arms
Tue Mar 8 Scarborough Blues Club
Thur Mar 10 The Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst, Kent
Fri Mar 11 The Globe, Cardiff
Sat Mar 12 All Saints Arts Centre, London N20