The intimate surrounding for Erja Lyytinen’s ‘Stolen Hearts’ album showcase is well suited to an award winning artist who this afternoon willingly shares the rudiments of her creative process with the assembled members of the press and guest musicians.
She’s a charismatic artist who aside from running her own business is smart enough to seek outside help to make her new album ever better than it might otherwise have been.
Enter the famed producer/engineer/mixer Chris Kimsey who in the second part of this afternoon’s showcase explains how he came to mix the album and add the vocal parts.
Having already recorded the basic tracks in Finland, Erja felt the need for an extra ingredient and turned to Kimsey to mix and oversee the vocal parts.
The last part of the recording process highlighted the importance of correct microphone choice for individual tracks and the use of a mixing console. The old school approach at this stage meant there was no going back to redo anything, adding to the in-the-moment focus of the performance. And then there was Kimsey’s overall audio experience which has seen him oversee everything from the Rollin Stones to The Cult, Peter Tosh and The Proclaimers.
But back to the beginning. As Erja explains ‘Stolen Hearts’ is her first studio album for 4 years, the interim having been filled by ‘The Sky Is Crying’ Elmore James cover album and a ‘Live in London’ CD/DVD double set.
She says she dug a little deeper on this album, pushing herself into prog rock for example, on ‘Black Ocean’.
Clearly ‘Stolen Hearts is no run of the mill album, as she talks openly about the positive and negative changes in her life, the role of music as a pacifying force and the album as a cathartic release.
She an artist who in her own words prefers to be “outside the box” rather than adhering to specific musical categories. Her music may be anchored by the blues, but as an artist she’s musically versatile enough and ambitious enough to explore broader vistas.
Not all the new album is actually new, with the magnificent ‘City Of Angels’ surprisingly being a song that didn’t fit on any of her other projects since being written in 2004. She draws up an analogy between music and cooking to emphasize the importance of taking your time and combining the old and the new, with the result that her new album is: “the only one I can really listen to now”.
She extends her ideas about the album with a two-song cameo, teaming up with keyboard player Kasper for an ethereal ‘City of Angels’, full of delicious slide, a passionate vocal and layered keys, which she finishes with a confidently sung single resonant note.
She tells us the title track is a world premiere in duo format. She incorporates the album’s introductory stuttered affection, before settling on a lilting groove with an early hook and what she earlier called a ‘jazzy’ deep-toned solo.
And in the space of little over ten minutes she distils the essence of what makes her so unique. The combination of refreshingly original songs and fluid guitar playing is topped by vocals that are delivered with the same commitment in front of this intimate gathering, as when she plays to a full house.
Chris Kimsey’s own perspective is interesting. In an elightening Q & A session, he tells us he loves Erja’s music and creativity and explains the way she pushed her boundaries with the necessary amount of pre-preparation.
Chris was also instrumental in finding find the right studio and environment for the job at hand. He further explains the importance of building the album sonically and in a piecemeal way, rather than recording a batch of solos and choosing the right one later on.
With everything complete, the only outstanding thing to be done was making the painful decision about what to leave off the vinyl version of ‘Stolen Hearts’. This strand of conversation leads Chris into reflections about old school albums and the way the craft of songwriting has been partly diminished by the focus on quantity rather than quality.
Erja’s showcase goes along way to explaining why she’s is in the vanguard of contemporary roots rock – with apologies for trying to put her in a box!
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by John Bull/Rockrpix
Tue 11th April 100 Club, London
Wed 12th April Worthing Pier Southern Pavilion
Thur 13th April, Durham Gala Theatre, Durham (Co-headline with Chantel McGregor)
Sat 15th April Hard Rock Hell – Blues Festival, O2 Academy Sheffield
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