A rock can be smoothe or it can be, well, rocky. The same can be said of Rock Musicians. If you were at Tuesdays Harmonie concert with Meena Cryle and Erja Lyytinen then you will certainly know what I mean. Meena, sporting an Elvis T-shirt and faded jeans, Erja in figure hugging short black dress with feather draped shoulders. Meena with wild hair falling where it will, Erja with coiffered locks trimmed to precision above precisely defined eyebrows. Most importantly of all – Meena with a raw, pleading, Joplinesque voice, Erja’s vocals flowing like silky smooth chocolate. Even the girls’ bands are ‘chalk & cheese’: In the lead guitarists’ corner for Miss Cryle, since she was 15 in fact, is Chris Fillmore. A man who looks like Springsteen and plays like Van Zandt, with a spirit that oftens begs the question between man and guitar of ‘who is playing who’?. Erja’s equally talented guitar man Davide Floreno on the other hand seems to carefully construct his solos, like he’s agonised over each note beforesending them to the amplifier. Both girls are also backed by the solid and reliable Roger Innis on bass and Erja’s drummer Miri Miettinen so there really is a wealth of good musicianship onstage and there’s an unmistakeable ‘Blues Caravan’ atmosphere of musicians having a good time onstage that causes the odd moment of uncertainty as to what’s being played next and in what key – I certainly didn’t see a set list anywhere.
Meena has the first hour to shine, and she does so very brightly indeed. It’s the first time I’ve seen her with Chris Fillmore on guitar and the two seem to know each other like musical hands in gloves. Her website describes them in the early days playing long Clapton/Cream style jams – ‘Psychedelic Rock’ as she remembers it. There is still something of a 70’s style about Fillmore, but both he and Meena’s time recording their first CD in Memphis with the legendary Jim Gaines, not to mention a few years on the road, have honed down the duos sound and it’s now a no frills but big thrills treat to the ears. Right from the opener ‘You can have my husband’ it’s power-vocal Blues all the way. Fillmore was in particularly fine form on ‘My Performance is Over’ and Meena herself shines on the self-penned ”Don’t Love You Anymore’ but, as at her past Blues Caravan shows, she steals the show with her tear-jerking rendition of the Etta James classic ”Rather Go Blind’. Her voice, like her music, is a soulful revelation. A real raw diamond. If you prefer your diamonds polished then make sure you get a good place to stand in the hall in time for set two of the evening with Finland’s Queen of the Slide Blues Erja Lyytinen. It’s still the same rhythm section and speakers but everything else has changed. That raw Fillmore guitar sound, always on the edge of feedback, has been replaced by the smooth melodies and tasteful licks of Erja’s long time axe-man Davide Floreno. I hasten to add neither for better, nor worse, just totally different. Lyytinen herself is not only playing and singing better than ever – she’s looking even better too. A sleek appearance to match the sleek sound of her band. Not that they lack a rough edge when required, as the Quo-like riff of ‘Everythings Fine’ proves. I particularly loved the more cross-over style songs Erja had on offer. I guess its her Scandinavian roots, but her vocal phrasing is a little Agnetha/Anifrid like at times and some of her songs have a pop/Rock feel. Not that either of those venerable Swedes could ever play slide guitar like Erja though – always a joy to hear. I loved the soulful, brooding ‘Crowes at your Door’ and the melancholy ‘Can’t Fall in Love’ but best of all was her take of “Soul of a Man”. A World removed from the gruff and rough original Blind Willie Johnson original. Lyytinen’s version kicks off with restrained slide playing and a voice so laid back it almost purrs in your ear like a contented cat.
It was interesting to hear the encore songs when both ladies (and both guitarists) took the stage. I like a spicy Curry and I like Chocolate, but do I like them together? Substitute Meena for the Curry and Erja for the chocolate and surprisingly after a bit of a rough start (Is there an old saying “Over-enthusiasm is the Mother of Confusion”?) they went down a treat. I recommend everyone to give purchasing the Erja logo Ladies lingerie a miss, in favour of picking up the latest CD’s by these two very different but very talented ladies. Believe me, ‘a song is worth a thousand thongs’ from these two! MORE PHOTOS HERE
For a Geman language review see: http://wp.me/1ccLy