August 2012 Archives

ara quien no conozca aún a esta Dama del Blues finlandesa:
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A Grip Ever Stronger

24 June 2008

Finland's Erja Lyytinen takes another step forward with her new album "Grip of the Blues". Her excellent tour band now gets to play on a record, too. The familiar pop ingredient is in the mix again.

There have been quite a few steps forward in 
Erja Lyytinen's musical career during the last couple of years. The Finn signed a deal with Ruf Records, took part in the label's Blues Caravan of 2006 with Englishmen Aynsley Lister and Ian Parker, and finally cut her first solo album for Ruf, "Dreamland Blues". For more than two years now, she has been touring internationally. Any lessons learned during these adventurous years? Find the answers on "Grip of the Blues".
Gender should not be an argument, but a blues guitar-playing lady has attracted media attention even outside the actual music publications. Increased publicity is naturally a good thing for the blues. Ms Lyytinen is still inclined towards pop, occasionally though, but fortunately she manages to stay away from mainstream. 

Thanks to the success of "Dreamland Blues", a lot is expected from its successor. Can Erja Lyytinen show some more progress? Oh yes she can - she has been able to tackle all dullness, one-sidedness, and above all, the new record does not try to duplicate what was done on its predecessor. 

However, the basic structure bears some resemblance to "Dreamland". The album is opened by a bright, slide guitar-fuelled instrumental (Broadcast), from which the band cuts into a basic blues throb (Everything's Fine). There is the familiar dip into pop (Inner Beauty), and a reference to the Mississippi memories of "Dreamland Blues" (Voyager's Tale). "Wanna Get Closer", with its duplicated vocals and all, carries the cd's deepest soul feel. There are covers too: 
Tony Joe White's (Polk Salad Annie, As the Crow Flies) "Steamy Windows" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'", the 'obligatory' classic. 

Title track "Grip of the Blues" is the one that most distinctively represents Ms Lyytinen's new material. There is plenty of groove to it, and the chord progression is pop-like in an attractive way. The wah-wah guitar sound adds to the song's atmospheric nature. This kind of guitar work, in wilder fashion though, can also be found on a clever "Let It Shine". The title track is kind of lightweight, but only on the surface; the listener is likely to catch the underlying, deep emotions after all. 

Solid Input by the Band 

Slide guitar is Erja's instrument of choice. Her playing is technique-rich, and it indicates the endless joy within. Lately she has improved as a singer, too, although she still does not have what it takes to be a blues shouter. She seems to know her limits; Ms Lyytinen only seldom tries to be something she isn't. It is brave to do "Steamy Windows", as she will be compared to top-notch singers like 
Tina Turner and Shemekia Copeland, who also have recorded the song. 

Erja has written a bunch of fine songs again. The lyrics are not too catchy, but most original songs possess a lot of melodic and rhythmic sense. Maybe the album longs for a 'clincher', though. 

Even Ms Lyytinen herself tends to talk about the album as one of her own. Nevertheless, the role of the band - which is familiar to many from her gigs and tours - cannot be underestimated. 
Davide Floreno (guitar), Iiro Kautto (bass) ja Rami Eskelinen (drums) play so well they make the brothers Kimbrough (Kinney and David played on Dreamland Blues) look like small-timers. The interplay of the three has been captured as it is - thanks to Floreno the Producer. 

As far as the cover art is concerned, the band is a mere list of names, although the silhouette of drummer Eskelinen can be spotted in the blurry back cover shot. There is one thing that is for sure: Ms Lyytinen owes a great deal to her band - a group that is so trustworthy, skilful and unselfish. 

Erja Lyytinen is so young a blues artist that her success will be measured by her progress for years to come. Her first albums "Attention!" (2002) and "Wildflower" (2003) were sympathetic pieces of work as such. Then again, her artistic development has been staggering since those days. "Grip of the Blues", her second Ruf cd, is another step, albeit not a great leap forward. 

To take success for granted - not to mention letting it go to her head - would be the worst-case scenario right now. Ms Lyytinen has indeed remained sane: Erja proves on the album she is an ambitious artist, who does not underestimate the audience in any way. The blues path ahead is long. Erja Lyytinen knows it, and has prepared well for the journey.


Erja Lyytinen: Grip of the Blues. Ruf Records, 2008 

Lyytinen (vocals, guitar), Davide Floreno (guitar), Iiro Kautto (bass), Rami Eskelinen (drums) 

Guest: Harri Taittonen (keyboards) 

Producer: Davide Floreno 

Links: Erja Lyytinen 
website and MySpaceReview: Dreamland Blues

Erja Lyytinen : Wildflowers


CD, 2002 - Auto-Production

1. High G 
2. I Just Came Up With A New Song 
3. Maybe I Gotta Make Some Music 
4. Be Friendly 
5. Memories From The Past 
6. Get Me Some Money 
7. In The Bushes 
8. Long Ago 
9. Wildflower 
10. On The Roof

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank: world stock markets have now decided they like his eurozone plans. Photograph: Shen Zhengning/Corbis

Financial markets ended the week on a high note on both sides of the Atlantic after better US jobs news and renewed faith in the European Central Bank sent shares, bonds and oil prices surging.

Shares in London closed at their highest level in three months after upbeat news from the American labour market gave fresh legs to a rally in Europe. Markets made a rapid reappraisal of the plan to end Europe's long-running sovereign debt crisis outlined by Mario Draghi, the bank's president on Thursday, after initially giving the proposals a cool reception.

Stock markets in Madrid and Rome rose by 6% and interest rates on long-term Spanish and Italian borrowing fell sharply as investors took fright at the prospect of unlimited bond buying by the ECB in Frankfurt. Analysts said the promise of action if countries were prepared to sign up for tough deficit-reduction programmes was a sign that Europe was at last getting to grips with its problems.

Holger Schmieding, economist at German bank Berenberg, said: "On 2 August, the ECB finally stepped up to the plate meaningfully. It announced that it would do all it takes to repair the transmission mechanism of its monetary policy. At the moment, turmoil in sovereign bond markets is preventing the ECB's monetary policy from working.

"Central bank interventions work if they impress markets. If the ECB convinces markets that it is providing a reliable safety net for solvent sovereigns which stay on the reform path, it may lure more investors back into these markets. In that case, the ECB may not have to buy many bonds."

Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister, said he would want to see more details of the help on offer before he would ask for outside financial assistance, but markets were cheered by reports from Germany that Angela Merkel's governmentwould not stand in the way of Draghi's bond buying proposals.

Interest rates (the bond yield) on 10-year Spanish borrowing fell by 0.29 percentage points to just below 7%, with a similar sized fall in Italy taking its 10-year bond yields down to just above 6%. Interest rates on two-year Spanish borrowing fell even more sharply, by 0.8 percentage points to 3.72%, after the ECB said it would concentrate its efforts on bonds of short duration.

Despite the market bounce, the economic news from Europe remained grim, with consumer confidence in Spain falling below its previous all-time low, reached when the global financial crisis was at its most acute in 2008. Of those polled, 90% said the economic situation has worsened in the past six months and 60% believe things are going to get worse.

In the UK, where the FTSE 100 closed 125 points higher at 5787.28, the monthly look at the service sector from CIPS/Markit showed activity growing at its slowest pace since late 2010. The Purchasing Managers Index slipped from 51.3 to 51.0 in July, barely above the cut-off point that separates an expanding from a contracting sector.

Shares on Wall Street also rose in early trading, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average breaching the 13,000 level after a jump of more than 200 points. This followed the release of official figures showing the US added 163,000 new jobs in July. The increase in non-farm payrolls was ahead of economists' expectations and offered some relief for President Barack Obama in US presidential election year.

Private companies added 172,000 jobs last month, while government shed 9,000 positions. The US added just 64,000 jobs in June. While the number was far better than expected it was not enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which edged up to 8.3%. That number is derived from a separate survey, and economists said it tends to be volatile but the rise was immediately seized upon by Obama's opponents. The Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the figures "a hammer blow to struggling middle-class families".

The US labour department said that since January, employment growth had averaged 151,000 per month, about the same as the average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011. The labour market has slowed sharply after strong gains of over 200,000 a month in the winter, spelling possible trouble for Obama before the election on 6 November.

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