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Erja Lyytinen

Forbidden Fruit

Ruf Records

If ‘Grip Of The Blues’ showed how well this lady can play and sing then this new release underlines songwriting skills developing apace. German label RUF seem to be on a roll at present will a set of 2013 albums that is varied and deep, this one being as good as any of them.

Clearly Erja has an uncanny guitar partnership with David Floreno, whose electric and acoustic guitar work is exemplary, not to mention backing vocals. With Davide aboard, Ms Lyytinen can flourish and flourish she does.  If the bass playing on this set sounds springheeled and accomplished it’s no surprise – Roger Inniss has been prised from ‘X Factor’ journeyman work and brought in (presumably on the back of his RUF tour contributions) to thwack the thick strings on this set. Miri Miettinen drums with a hint of original Tull skinsman Clive Bunker in his steady but creative panache and keys are played with style by Harri Taittonen. Bloody miracle if I’ve got the spelling korrekt on that lot !

These blues and roots lasses always impress best in a live setting, as does St Joanne of Shaw Taylor of course – hence one would hope that the mountain breeze-driven ‘Change Of Season’ will be included in the setlist for promotional dates. Lovely winsome vocal, weaving guitars and plenty of melody here, pus a fine platform for guitar runs. The likes of Hot Chip can only dream about the dynamics and impact of material this good, performed this well.

So what else do we like on this album ?   The regal opener ‘Joyful Misery’ has cool keyboard tones and a catchy chorus – double tracked ? – and isn’t a million metres from Stevie Nicks at her best. Strangely the emphatic guitar break recalls Lindsey Buckingham. (Why don’t they make the Buckingham Nicks album available ? I prefer it to ‘Rumours’…)

‘Hold On Together’ is a loping blues workout with tempo change tricks and another just-so vocal and lyrical musings on the state of things ; the insidious ‘ At Least We Still Fight’ is a (deliberately) curious love song about a frictional relationship with whipped cream vocal harmonies that soothe the audio palate, considered touch-of-vinegar guitar break and all. The band here almost sound as they are on an Andrew Gold or Jackson Browne session, dig that bass !

Title cut ‘Forbidden Fruit’ has a dense acoustic intro and philosophical lyric – so much space in this music and it’s used to best effect. Serving the song in much that way that Bonnie Raitt or John Hiatt make records rather than using songs to display technique. There are enough acts doing that….

Last Wednesday I was watching the slide maestro Michael Messer perform ‘Death Letter’ the Son House lament HIS way, at a guitar event ; now here is that song once again on Erja’s CD, she has added jazz chord variations to give it her own flavour. One can only approve. The funk spills out of ‘Press My Button’ which will appeal to the Tedeschi followers and closer ‘Things About Coming My Way’ heads us back to traditional chordal patterns and subtle slide work

All these tracks serve to highlight Erja’s distinctive singing and moreover a quality group making her sound ace. Just what a band should do

Pete Sargeant

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