Release date: 02-Nov-2006
Label: Ruf Records
Catalog #: RUF 1114
German label Ruf Records has released Finnish Erja Lyytinen’s first international solo album “Dreamland Blues”. The experience of making this album has obviously been unforgettable for the artist; the material was recorded over four days in August in Mississippi, partially with local musicians. The producer was Lyytinen’s English Blues Caravan colleague Ian Parker.
There is more powerfulness and effectiveness to “Dreamland Blues” than to any other Lyytinen album to date. The significance of success is increased by the fact that this is a solo album. Thus the artist’s input is particularly dominant. Miss Lyytinen has found her own line of duty. It is the blues, although only less than half of the tracks clearly land to this category. A proper conclusion has been drawn when planning the album: in a successful long play record, you just have to cross some musical borders.
The album consists of eleven tracks: some blues, some soul/pop numbers and a couple of slow originals. Only two are cover songs. Others have been penned by Miss Lyytinen herself, often in collaboration with Davide Floreno and Ian Parker.
The most significant song, and certainly the most significant blues song on the album is “Why a Woman Plays the Blues”. Both lyrics and music-wise, it profiles the artist as well as the whole album. The album itself is an answer to the question often made to Miss Lyytinen, but this song is the cornerstone of the given answer. Erja did not choose the blues, she was chosen by the blues! The song has what it takes to become a – hopefully international – classic of female blues.
Opening track “Skinny Girl” is joyful slide fun. The opening of the album is excellent, as track number two is the perfectly timed “Why a Woman Plays the Blues”. This pair of songs is the highlight of the album.
Miss Lyytinen has adopted the pure delta feeling best on the album’s name track. Ragged playing and an intimate vocal sound carry the authentic swampy mood. Elmore James – Marshall Sehorn loan “It Hurts Me Too” for its part has the heaviest blues stomp. “Good Lovin’ Man” is a shameless “Dust My Broom” copy, but isn’t music all about recycling?
Soul and pop numbers bring in some all-important colourfulness. The most effective of these is Parker’s “Mississippi Callin'”. It is a rather heavy soul interpretation, which is given nuances by some fine chord and mood changes. “I Need Love (To Get Over You)” is reminiscent of the classic girl group sound. The perfect impression only lacks a vocal group with glimmering dresses and synchronised dance moves. “Nasty Weather” and “Best for You” are the least impressive and thus most forgettable songs on the album.
“Join Everyone” is a ballad that arises from the feelings of loneliness and no hope. It adequately appeals to the listener, but the end result seems a bit artificial. At worst, the song might turn into an embarrassing sing-along in concerts. A short, acoustic instrumental “Voyager’s Rest” ends the album.
“Dreamland Blues” is quite dominantly a solo album. It leaves little room to move for the band, but the potent group fulfils its task in flawless fashion. Perhaps Lyytinen’s next one is a strong band album? Parker’s production is a success: the sound is full and the instrument gallery has appropriately been kept reduced.
Erja Lyytinen’s new album is a convincing proof of her spectacular development as a musician. Progress both as a singer and a guitarist has been captured on this production. The album must also be respected for the use of original material. The majority of the music is rich and at places catchy. The lyrics are mostly about romantic relationships, but still they manage to avoid clichés.
The opening of the album is very forceful. As a whole, however, the structure could be better. Of the first eight songs, five are obvious blues numbers – of the last three, none. The album in a way ends after the name song, and the less impressive three songs in the end close the album in a rather dragging manner.
The release of “Dreamland Blues” has been a well-kept secret in the artist’s native Finland. At any rate, its success in the country should be hoped for. Hit music records are certainly sold in Finland in numbers ten times larger, but this album contains artistic input and soulfulness in proportions beyond commercial music’s reach.