Voted #1 International Solo Artist, Blues Matters Writer’s Poll 2015
Voted Artist of the Year, Finnish Blues Awards 2015
Take one part blues traditionalist, blend it with a forward-thinking music academy graduate, serve with a side order of skill and a garnish of Nordic beauty. What have you got? Singer/guitarist Erja Lyytinen, a.k.a. “the Finnish slide goddess” (The Blues Magazine).
Since first setting foot in a recording studio 15 years ago, Erja Lyytinen has become a bona fide star in her homeland and a celebrated fixture on the international music scene. She has recorded nine studio albums in locations as diverse as Helsinki, Memphis and Clarksdale, Mississippi, earning numerous awards and honors along the way. Lyytinen is equally at home in traditional and modern blues and has never been afraid to incorporate styles like jazz, pop and soul. Even motherhood hasn’t slowed her down: Her 2014 Elmore James tribute album The Sky Is Crying – recorded shortly before she gave birth to twins – was universally hailed as her best and bluesiest to date. “Erja has seemingly achieved the impossible by both sounding like Elmore as he played in the 1950’s whilst adding her unique flair and 21st century vista,” wrote Blues In Britain in a glowing review.
Born into a musical family in the town of Kuopio, Lyytinen quickly emerged as an artist to watch in her native country. She signed with Germany’s prestigious Ruf Records label in 2005 and recorded her international debut Pilgrimage later that year. Her participation in the 2006 Blues Caravan tour gave audiences outside of Finland a first taste of her spirited live performances and led to a string of successful appearances in the United States.
The follow-up Dreamland Blues took her back to the USA to record with David and Kinney Kimbrough (sons of Mississippi blues legend Junior Kimbrough). That album was voted Best Album of 2006 by Finland’s YLE Radio Suomi ‘Bluesministeri’. 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 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.
Ever since her first visit to Mississippi, Lyytinen had wanted to do a raw, down-to-earth slide guitar blues album. The Sky Is Crying, a dazzling collection of stripped-down, old-school blues recorded live in the studio, brought her full circle. Her tribute to music legend Elmore James convinced even the most discerning listeners of Lyytinen’s deep feel for the blues and that as a slide player, she has few peers. The Sky Is Crying was named Best European Blues Album and Best Tribute Album of 2014 by Canada’s Blues Underground Network and also placed in the top three international albums of 2014 as chosen by writers at Britain’s Blues Matters.
2015 saw the release of a brand new live CD/DVD, Live in London, recorded at that city’s renowned 100 Club the previous fall. The concert performance, featuring a mix of original material and selected Elmore James cuts culled from The Sky Is Crying, was honored as the year’s #1 International Live Album in the Blues Matters Writer’s Poll and ranked #2 in Blues In The South‘s listing of the Top 100 albums of 2015.
What will 2016 bring? Well, it started off with a bang as Lyytinen was named Artist of the Year at the Finnish Blues Awards. The “Finnish Slide Goddess” will spend the coldest days of winter bringing the heat as she plays a 26-date tour alongside guitarist, singer and actor Heikki Silvennoinen, best known as a member of the comedy group Kummeli. And there’s a new studio album on the way, Lyytinen is happy to report. “We’ve already done some rough demos, the new songs are ready to be recorded. It’s very exciting”, she says with her famous smile.
In other words: The saga continues…