Erja Lyytinen + JFK Blue + Connor Selby Band
Tuesday 11th April
The 100 Club, London
We were not only at London's iconic 100 Club last Tuesday night for the official album launch of Erja Lyytinen's album 'Stolen Hearts', but were also lucky enough to be present the previous afternoon for a private unplugged set at Soho's Ain't Nothing But Blues venue where there was also a Q&A session with Erja and producer Chris Kimsey - who both kindly agreed for us to interview them.
Anyway, if you wanted value for money at the 100 Club, then you certainly had it in abundance with two excellent support bands. Must admit I was bit miffed that we missed the start of Connor Selby Band's set, based on the evidence of what we saw when we finally arrived. With Andy Corby on bass, Rob Shearer on drums, Jon Getty on rhythm guitar and a nice young Scottish guy on keyboards (sorry we didn't get your name) - it was one Connor Blues guitar solo, after guitar solo, after guitar solo, including their own funky composition 'This Old World', the soul of James Brown & The Famous Flames 'Cold Sweat', the Blues of Ray Charles' 'I've Got News For You' and just to wrap things up, The Beatles 'With A Little Help From Our Friends' of course Cocker style. Awesome - follow that JFK.
Well not to be outdone JFK Blue (as they are sometimes known) were also launching their debut album 'Rough Round The Edges'. A London/Surrey five piece - they could also boast some pedigree as we virtually stood next to keyboard player Paul Blount who has worked with Jeff Beck, drummer Sol Ezra (ex-Talk Talk) who stood on one our feet when he dismounted the stage, ex-Blockheads bass guitarist Les Victor, lead guitarist Iago Banet and vocalist/guitarist Chris Elliott. Needless to say we were treated to some great Blues Rock with a twist of a Jazz and a touch of Gypsy influence - stand out songs from the new album for mine being 'Shadowlands' and very appropriately 'Having A Real Good Time'.
Erja Lyytinen's tenth studio album 'Stolen Hearts' is her latest release in her 15 year recording career that saw her team up with legendary producer Chris Kimsey to create an album that is somewhat more diverse in styles than previous releases. The "Finnish Slide Goddess" recorded the album in her homeland but it was mastered by the Master in London's Air Studios. And it's a slick production. Whilst known as a Blues artist, Erja has incorporated elements of many other styles in an album that is therefore a mix of tastes. And with lyrical themes that transcend all ages there's something in it for everyone.
Obviously the set list was predominantly taken from the new album - in fact if I counted correctly (I shouldn't have had that extra beer) - just one track from 'Stolen Hearts' was omitted. Erja opened with the superb 'City Of Angels', which tells the story of of her visit to the Californian metropolis, which built to a powerful chorus, with all of its components - voice, guitar, rhythm and the overall mix - delivered perfectly. Erja then actually retrieved her guitar pick from just in front of us (we're not worthy) before she upped the tempo with Lover's Novels' and her keys duet with its faster shuffle and her ever present slide guitar proving that you can take the Slide Goddess out of Finland but you can't take the Slide Goddess out of the girl.
After ten albums it is understandable that an artist wants to introduce a fresh approach and bring in new ideas and there's no denying Erja's singing, songwriting and guitar playing talents, although 'Stolen Hearts' has a mix of songs that defies the ability to label it as a Blues album. Therefore it was pleasing to see that the more Pop than Blues of 'Silver Stones', '24 Angels' and 'Awakening' - with some nice keyboards behind the guitars and vocals - plus the funkier 'Love Laboratory' were all well received by the crowd given Erja's track record of playing the Blues scene. Despite the album launch, their was still time to dip into two tracks from the past - 'Don't Let A Good Woman Down' from her 2011 album 'Voracious Love' and the predominantly key influenced 'Everything's Fine' from 2012 album 'Song's From The Road'. However, one of the highlight's of the gig was indeed a cover of Koko Taylor’s ‘I’m A Woman’ - its pounding bass line not only the perfect nine minute vehicle to showcase Erja's voice and slide guitar prowess but also the bar room piano and her bass guitar and drum engine room. "Oh Yeah!"
Erja appeared to have a permanent smile on her face during the set and it was clearly apparent that the band were really enjoying the moment despite the discourteous chit-chat from the back of the 100 Club which you could clearly hear during the set's softer moments. For God's sake - why don't you shut the f**k up? As for the Blues Police in the crowd checking out the new album - Erja belted out the title track 'Stolen Hearts', again demonstrating both her strong vocals and fret board skills with a subtle hint of Hendrix. The definitive downbeat Blues track 'Slowly Burning' - was another opportunity for Erja to take it out on her Fender Strat with a smooth controlled vocal delivery given the song's emotional context. Black Ocean' was a more down to earth Blues track with a nice funky repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo complemented by both Erja's crystal clear vocal and more awesome organ. They rounded the album off with the unusual time signature of 'Rocking Chair' - essentially a true Blues track with trademark slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and vocal that made way for a deserved drum and bass solo. A thoroughly enjoyable evening ended with an a capella intro from Erja on their encore 'People Get Ready' - a beautiful take on the Curtis Mayflied/The Impressions number - Lyytinen's sweet guitar solo bringing back memories of the innocence of the early Bonamassa era. Delightful. All in all, two brilliant two days of great live music, but tonight in particular, when Erja stole 100 hearts.