Erja Lyytinen and band were at The Caves in Edinburgh tonight on the second date of their U.K. tour for 2017, bringing their own individual mixture of classic blues rifts to more funkier rhythms to stage with them. This tour coincides with the release in April this year of Erja’s latest album – her 10th studio album - “Stolen Hearts” which I reviewed for this website on its release. As you would expect, the set was made up of older and newer material, and songs from this album including “City of Angels”, “Rocking Chair”, and the title track “Stolen Hearts” were some of the reasons I went along to review this show as, from the moment I heard them on CD, I wanted to take the opportunity to see and hear Erja Lyytinen live and hear the music expanded for a live audience, and to see if Erja really did live up to her reputation as a songwriter and guitarist live.
Well the answer to my question is now answered , and based on the new songs and older songs like “Everything’s Fine” and a great tribute to one of her own musical heroes –Koko Taylor with “I’m A Woman”, Erja has shown that she not only carries on that strong tradition of Scandinavian countries producing great blues and jazz musicians, but she is also clearly continuing on the path created by performers like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Joan Jett and Suzi Quatro – that of a strong female lead on guitar and vocals that all too few women make (even in the 21st century).
Erja Lyytinen was a real surprise for me. Yes, I was expecting the serious blues guitar skills, but not how easily Erja and the band could seamlessly shift in and out of so many different styles and how easily they could move into a great funk groove or a classic soul sound. So many of the musical roots of soul and funk are in “The Blues” and it is always interesting to hear when a gifted songwriter and musician like Erja understands that connection between the music and is willing to explore sounds outside of the mainstream blues sounds. A huge part of the success of this at times more soulful and funkier sound has to also go to Erja’s very tight band - Juha Verona (bass), Kai Jokiaho (drums) and Harri Taittonen (keyboard, Hammond). There seems to be nothing out there on keyboards that ever truly gives that sweet soul sound like a Hammond organ does.
The really big surprise of this show though was what a truly great blues voice Erja has. Stolen Hearts is a very good album, but it does have a slightly “cleaner” production of Erja’s vocal on it, and I for one would love to hear Erja put the guitar down for a song or two and let us all hear just how good a voice is there behind the impressive guitar skills.
Our review of “Stolen Hearts” is available from
Opening the show for Erja Lyytinen tonight were local band from Edinburgh - “Bourbon Street Band” and playing a sweet mixture of soul, funk and blues, this is a band to keep a look out for as they not only do covers of classic like “Hey Joe”, but also are writing some interesting material of their own, and “Kiss It All Away” is a very good song that deserves to be heard more. The band are
Vocals - Emmanuel James Mathias
Guitar - Louis Crosland
Bass - Adèle Revilo
Drums - Lewis Barrow
Review by Tom King