Erja Lyytinen

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Rob Adams


Blues, like jazz, is long-established as an international music, and just as northern European musicians created their own strain of jazz with an accent particular to their part of the world, so it is with Finnish singer-guitarist Erja Lyytinen.

Known as the queen of the slide guitar, Lyytinen sings in a voice that sounds slightly more suited to Brecht-Weill cabaret than the soulful cries of the Mississippi, but she has embraced the blues tradition down to the now time-honoured stroll through the audience, which in this instance had a strong flavour of New Orleans as Lyytinen’s drummer, Miri Miettinen, stoked up a fine second line rhythm.

Lyytinen’s repertoire draws on the established blues canon, with a muscular reading of Willie Dixon’s Spoonful opening this Edinburgh debut and slightly overwrought takes on The Sky is Crying and It Hurts Me Too, to whose creator, Elmore James, Lyytinen dedicated her most recent studio album. She also writes her own material, which leans towards a blues-flavoured pop/rock style and showcases her rock solid band’s nicely varied dynamics and some effective twin guitar lines from Lyytinen and Davide Floreno.

Stolen Heart, inspired by Jimi Hendrix after Lyytinen came across a picture of him in one of her mother’s music magazines as a youngster, featured Floreno and Lyytinen in sizzling harmony, and the slow blues ballad You Make Me So Sad allowed Lyytinen to take the volume right down to a whisper as she teased and tempted the front row with her show-womanship and fretboard ability. One of the biggest cheers was reserved, however, for bassist Roger Inniss, whose solo easily matched his colleagues’ improvisations for structure and mobility.