Like Joanne Shaw Taylor, who we reviewed recently, we’ve followed Erja Lyytinen since at least her major label album debut in 2006. Pete Feenstra is of course a great advocate: promoting her gigs, playing and reviewing her albums. And like JST she has shown the ability to break out of the true blues/rock template, the more so on her new album due at the end of April.
Erja treated us to a preview of several songs tonight, not least the superb title track. However ‘Another World’ does stand juxtaposed with the rest of the set list culled mainly from the previous offering Stolen Hearts.
The long blues workout ‘Slow Burning’ in some respects became as tortuous as the subject matter whilst the climatic ‘Rocking Chair’ was perhaps unnecessarily drawn out. The more direct song based material is what really impressed – that new title track again – plus the likes of ‘Cherry Overdrive’ and ‘Black Ocean’.
And there lies the conundrum. Chatting to Erja after the gig it is clear that she is refreshlingly unconstrained in terms of musical direction and the new album reflects that. However the current set list is a reflection of her more familiar blues-with-a hint-of-jazz that is unlikely to pull in a younger, wider, audience. Put it this way, when Erja is still in her musical prime, in 15 years time, her core audience will be nearly 80 and dribbling over their own rocking chair.
Finland’s finest musical export since Tarja, she should milk her Scandi sass and engaging energy – and appeal to a new demographic. Maybe ‘Another World’ will help this process. Throughout, keyboard player Kasperi Kallio provided earthy Hammond textures (even if looking far too serious) whilst bassist Tatu Back also provided useful backing vocals.
Tonight was something of a showcase for slide guitar with special guest Troy Redfern, another Pete Feenstra favourite. Featuring several highlights from his two band albums including ‘The Brave’ and ‘The Line’ (from Dirt Blues Ritual) whilst rounding up with the John Lee Hooker standard ‘Mad Man Blues’.
This was a first visit to Oxford and The Bullingdon and emphasising the hard working and enlightened individuals who continue to back the blues such as Penny Lee and The Haven Club.
Review and photos by David Randall
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