A female Finnish slide guitar player isn’t the sort of musician you come across every day, particularly one who makes music like this. The Sky Is Crying is a tribute to Elmore James marking the 50th anniversary of his death. Erja Lyytinen loves James’ music and goes a long way towards emulating him. She has a powerful voice and a tendency to turn the volume up to eleven. Her seven-piece band includes two brass players, keyboards and a second guitarist, co-producer Davide Floreno.
Oddly, the opening track isn’t an Elmore James original. ‘Person To Person’ was originally recorded by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and later by Little Willie John and James himself but it’s a good place to start. James’ fans will know most of the titles but even casual listeners will be aware of ‘It Hurts Me Too’ and ‘Sho Nuff’.
There are two Lyytinen originals here. The first, the cheekily titled instrumental ‘Erja’s Contribution To Jazz’, has a wonderful “let’s do the show right here” feeling and is heaps of fun. The second, ‘King Of The Slide Guitar’, is her personal tribute to James, a contrast to the hard-bitten blues-shouter persona she presents elsewhere on the album.
The album closes with a nine-and-a-half minute live version of ‘Dust My Broom’, an epic blues riff according to Erja’s sleeve note and she’s not wrong. Of course, having got a verse or two out the way, this is just an excuse for some playing but it’s not a jam – there’s a lovely quiet passage a couple of minutes in with a solo guitar and minimal backing before rock’n’roll takes over again.
It’s true that The Sky Is Crying is some way from the Mississippi delta blues that James was brought up on but just imagine what might have happened if he’d lived a few years more and met Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green. If you love the blues this album is for you.
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Artist’s website: www.erjalyytinen.com
‘Dust My Broom’ live – a different take recorded in 2012: