Since first entering a recording studio some 15 years ago, singer/guitarist Erja Lyytinen has become a bona fide star in her homeland and a fixture on the international music scene. In that time, “the Finnish slide goddess” (The Blues Magazine) has recorded in places as diverse as Helsinki, London 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. Celebrated slide guitar master Sonny Landreth, upon discovering Lyytinen’s music recently, remarked: “I sure enjoyed her guitar skills. She’s obviously made a big name for herself. Things are going well for her and for good reason.”
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: The lavishly orchestrated “Bed of Roses” – featuring contributions from Marco Hietala (Nightwish) on vocals and Apocalyptica cellist Paavo Lötjönen – showed once and for all that Lyytinen is unafraid to push the stylistic envelope. With 2013’s Forbidden Fruit, she returned to more familiar territory.
Canada’s Blues Underground Network chose The Sky Is Crying as Best European Blues Album and Best Tribute Album of 2014. It also placed in the top three international albums of 2014 as chosen by writers at Britain’s Blues Matters, who also honored Erja as the #2 international solo artist.
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 #1 international solo artist by Blues Matters and Artist of the Year at the Finnish Blues Awards.
For her latest studio album Stolen Hearts, set for release in early 2017, Lyytinen convened a talented group of musicians in Helsinki in the summer of 2016, then ventured to London’s State of the Ark Studios to record with multi-platinum selling engineer and producer Chris Kimsey, known above all for his contributions to classic Rolling Stones albums like Sticky Fingers and Some Girls. In fact, Stolen Hearts was mixed on the very same EMI console Kimsey had often used with the Stones. “Chris said it was like meeting an old girlfriend after many years. He sat in front of the desk and his magic started to happen.” Mastering was completed at Air Studios Mastering (part of the world-famous Air Studios started by Beatles producer George Martin) by Ray Staff, whose credits include iconic rock albums such as David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes.
Not coincidentally, Stolen Hearts comes at a time when Erja Lyytinen is broadening her horizons. During the past year, she has played a sold-out tour of Finland with her compatriot Heikki Silvennoinen and made her first-ever concert appearances in India. She calls the process of making her newest album “purifying” – the product of difficult times of “heartbreak, frustration, disappointment, fear of loss and yet, at the same time, the deepest love.” As an artist, Erja has always been open to change, and with Stolen Hearts, she wants to offer her audience something totally new. “I had the feeling that I had the ingredients in my hands to make something truly extraordinary and different.”
Fans seem to agree with this because Erja barely had time to breathe since Stolen Hearts has been released. In addition to two successful tours throughout the UK and her Blue Christmas tour with Sami Saari and Maria Hänninen across Finland, she also took part in the Finnish TV-show Tähdet, Tähdet (Stars, Stars) and sang for half a million people each week. The icing on the cake came in late November 2017 when it was announced that Erja won a European Blues Award for “Best Guitarist”. Finally, in December 2017, Erja was voted the 7th best blues guitarist in a poll of The MusicRadar in which 136,000 votes have been cast.
In June 2018 Erja got to open for Santana at Helsinki’s Kaisaniemi Park. Carlos Santana invited Erja to play on stage in front of 20 000 people. “It was inspiring to see her play. It was from the future and I like the future” Santana said giving her a nickname “Lightning” referring to Lightnin’ Hopkins.
Erja will headline a big run of UK dates in March:
Mar 18 Brighton – Komedia
Mar 19 Bridport – Electric Palace
Mar 20 Milton Keynes – The Stables
Mar 21 Sheffield – Greystones
Mar 23 Glasgow – Nice N Sleazy
Mar 24 Kinross – The Green Hotel
Mar 27 Oxford – The Bullingdon
Mar 28 Birmingham – Hare And Hounds
Mar 29 Southport – The Atkinson
Mar 30 Bromsgrove – Artrix