Erja Lyytinen has shared the second single from her forthcoming live album and this time it finds her taking on Jimi Hendrix’s Crosstown Traffic, applying her prodigious slide guitar skills to the GOAT’s high-energy rush hour groover.
It’s not an easy cover. But the Finnish blues guitar sensation is not short on chops, and Hendrix, for one, would have appreciated the audacity of transposing it to open C and playing it fingerstyle.
Crosstown Traffic was recorded live in Jyväskylä, Finland, on 10 March 2023, and will feature on Lyytinen’s new album, Diamonds On The Road – Live 2023, which as the name suggests is a document of where Lyytinen’s live show is at right now. The album is out on 6 October through Tuohi Records, and is available to preorder on various formats, including double CD, vinyl, and digital.
This performance of Crosstown Traffic features Petri Rahikkala on keys, Tatu Back on bass guitar, with Iiro Laitinen on the drums.
“There is only one Hendrix, there’s no way you can replicate Jimi, and that’s why I wanted to perform my own take on this classic song,” said Lyytinen. “We brought the song to the 21st century by adding some new elements. Our version is slightly faster than Jimi’s and I’m also playing the song in open C tuning with a slide and that gives the song a whole new approach.”
Crosstown Traffic was recorded in December 1967, and would be first released on Electric Ladyland, and later as a standalone single, and this being the era before pedalboards offered a cornucopia of new sounds to play around with, it found Hendrix resorting to some unorthodox measures to get the electric guitar tone he wanted.
Crosstown Traffic in particular was a tough one. The signature riff needed something extra, and that something was a makeshift kazoo, fashioned from a comb and a piece of cellophane, which would then double the riff and blow minds long after the secret was revealed by Hendrix’s buddy Velvert Turner in the Electric Ladyland documentary.
Even in 2023, there’s not really a pedal that can do that job. But kazoos are regularly available at all good music retailers. And after stretching out in the solo, Lyytinen testing her vocal range as she ascends the fingerboard, she whips out a lime green kazoo for the closing section, and that is brave in front of a live audience, because, from memory, those things really buzz on your teeth and drive you bananas in no time.
“The song is a lot of fun to play live, it’s energetic and I just love the lyrics!” she said. “There are plenty of metaphors and sexual references, all cleverly delivered by describing a traffic jam, which alludes to how a relationship has come to its end.”
You can preorder Diamonds On The Road – Live 2023 from Erja Lyytinen.