Erja Lyytinen's tenth studio album 'Stolen Hearts' is her latest release in her 15 year recording career that sees her team up with 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.
'Stolen Hearts' opening eponymous track is a fine beginning to the album with strong fret board skills and strong vocals that perfectly fit a song about a man-eating woman turned heartbroken damsel in distress. The guitar work has hints of Hendrix but this is not blues as we know it Jim. 'Rocking Chair' has an unusual time signature that hides what is essentially a true Blues track with trademark slide guitar. A nice grooving riff pulls the song along as Erja bemoans the power of media and money driven world. Less intricate guitar work allows you to hear the delightful bends and slides. The title might make this my anthem as I make my way into my twilight years.
'Love Laboratory' is a far more laid back funky track that wouldn't sound amiss amongst a more pop ensemble with the likes of Adele singing. A question of what love is will have most grizzled Blues listeners scratching their heads. No idea love. Again, Erja's strong vocals and guitar skills keep us interested. '24 Angels' is another gentle opening track about morality and forgiveness. This suits Erja's vocals which sound smooth even when she increases the intensity. Another more pop type song, it is saved from becoming bland by the interesting key giving it a slightly mysterious sound. Influences of her recent visit to the East.
'Black Ocean' is a more down to earth Blues track with a nice repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo. The guitar solo is tastefully done with no excessive speed or unnecessary frills. It has that really emotional feel where one note says so much more than twenty. Not to say that Erja doesn't have technical and speed skills - they are there - she just uses them well to create a solo that sounds great. The longest track on the album, it certainly doesn't feel it. 'Slowly Burning' is a slow Blues track describing a relationship slowly burning away to nothing. Her smooth voice again sounds just right for this sort of song that is a traditional "feeling sorry for myself so let me take out my emotion on my Fender Strat". Not one that will get you up and dancing, but one that may well water your beer down with a few tears.
'Lover's Novels' ups the tempo with a faster shuffle and the ever present slide guitar. This is the shortest track on the album, it moves along at a brisk pace and will get your toes tapping. I liked the slide guitar in this track - it's been the track I have gone back and listened to most just for the slide work. I can see where Erja gets her "Finnish Slide Goddess" tag from. 'Silver Stones' is a song about Mental illness and is clearly sung from the heart - a subject that is all too close to many people. Another song that feels more Pop than Blues, I could imagine this being played on mainstream media. Assuming they would allow a guitar solo longer than a nano-second that is. It's probably the weakest song on the album musically but not a bad song.
'Awakening' is another song that mixes various styles - Blues, Pop - there's some nice keyboards behind the guitar and vocals. It's a song about the positives of being in love that give the song a lift above the melancholia of the Blues and into the Pop arena. 'City Of Angels' tells the story of Erja's experiences of her visit to the Californian metropolis. Highlighting those things that you would see and feel in the busy bustling city, it is an engaging track. Nice use of a quiet verse building to a more powerful chorus, this is one of the stronger tracks on the album for me. All of the components - voice, guitar, rhythm, the overall mix - are just right. 'Broken Eyes' is the final track on the album and is a piano melody about a broken heart - or broken eyes in this case. A stripped back sound with various chord changes, it keeps you engaged whilst you reach for your Zippo to hold sky high. It’s a fine way to end the album showcasing Erja's voice and songwriting skills. I guess it's an appropriate ending to what is an interesting mix of songs.
After ten albums it is understandable that an artist wants to introduce a fresh approach and bring in new ideas. 'Stolen Hearts' has a mix of songs that defies the ability to label it as a Blues album. It's one of those albums where some will appeal and some won't. There's no denying Erja's singing, songwriting and guitar playing talents. With a track record of playing the Blues scene, it will be interesting to see which track's Erja chooses for her forthcoming tour to support the album. And maybe which track makes it for her on mainstream radio. I wish her well in both.