Certain musicians possess the ability to move your soul and make you smile all at the same time. Erja Lyytinen happens to be one of them. Recently ranked among the top five guitar players in Finland, this rising young talent has established herself internationally with three highly regarded releases in the past three years. She's a blues artist who doesn't limit herself to the blues, a songwriter and storyteller who transcends the genre's clichés. The blues, in Erja's hands, sounds honest, fresh and hip.
Born into a musical family in the small town of Kuopio, Lyytinen first performed with her parents singing and playing the violin and later the electric guitar. Her impressive slide guitar chops prompted one magazine to call her the 'Bonnie Raitt of Finland.' After releasing several well-received albums in her homeland, she signed with Ruf Records in 2005. Her first project for the label, Pilgrimage, teamed her with British musicians Ian Parker and Aynsley Lister. The album documented the artists' journey to the American roots of the blues and led to subsequent tours in the United States and Europe as well as the live DVD Blues Caravan 2006 The New Generation. One of the songs Lyytinen contributed to the Pilgrimage session, Dreamland Blues, appeared on the CD Blues Guitar Women compiled by award-winning Canadian blues artist Sue Foley.
Dreamland Blues also became the title of Erja's first solo album for Ruf. Recorded in the USA and featuring the talents of David and Kinney Kimbrough (sons of Junior Kimbrough, a Mississippi hill country legend) as well as long-time musical partner Davide Floreno, Dreamland Blues offered up gritty electric blues with a smattering of jazz, pop, R&B and country. The album was voted "Best Album of 2006" by Finland's YLE Radio Suomi 'Bluesministeri.'
After two years of heavy touring, Erja launched her current CD release, Grip of the Blues, at Finland's biggest blues festival, Puistoblues 2008. Grip of the Blues is her boldest, freshest and most varied effort to date. After honing her sound on the road, she says, "I wanted to make an album that is as close as possible to what I do live." To that end, the CD "reunited" her with her own road band. The album's twelve tracks (ten of which she wrote or co-wrote) mix hard-edged blues with modern R&B and showcase Lyytinen's knack for writing delicate, poppy melodies.
Erja Lyytinen's professed goal is to balance artistic ambition and commercially, to nourish the joy she experiences whenever she plays and to maintain her passion and childlike interest in music. "I want to dig in deeper with my music and learn new things as long as I live," she says. That's good news for listeners, because this exceptional young talent is only just getting started.