Antti ”Gona” Lehtinen (born 1969) certainly holds a membership card to the guitar players' elite club. Having played virtually all known genres of roots music from blues via ragtime, jazz and country to rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly and old-school rhythm ’n’ blues since the mid-1980s in numerous bands and ensembles, our man is a seasoned professional endowed with an exceptional sense of style, also knowing how to give sincere credit to his idols. With the material of his first album he makes a strong tribute to his years of musical development.
Lehtinen's long-term dream eventually took off in the spring of 2018, leading a six-month mission in the studio. The arrangements and eventually also the recordings that we can now hear matured into their final form in the compassionate company of musician-producer-engineer Juha Takanen and another producer Hessu Pirhonen, the latter also acting as pianist on the album. The total hours spent on the work created an astonishingly consistent, palpable and lively listening experience, also benefited from contributions by several guesting top players, such as saxophone player Juho Hurskainen, violinist Laura Airola as well as steel guitarist Jussi Huhtakangas. A further important element for the album’s big picture is brought on by the charming Ria Korhola, the singer on each of the four vocal numbers.
In any case, the central role is played by Lehtinen himself, writing the arc of his drama with equal ease both via acoustic gypsy swing and fiercely rocking rhythm ’n’ blues. Although many song choices move thoughts far into the past, the guitarist has not totally clung to the roots of history. Followers of the Django tradition like Paul ”Hono” Winterstein as well as pioneers of the rock ’n’ roll genre of the 2000’s, such as the late Nick Curran, also have their place in the spotlight of his repertoire.
Above all, the artist’s lesson is, however, that the world is full of fine pieces of music that stand fresh ideas and deserve to be recorded just as much as completely new compositions. As an example, listen to the melancholy Theme From A Dream, the album’s final track, from the repertoire of Chet Atkins, or Seul Chet dedicated by Lehtinen to the above-mentioned legend with his six-string only, a variation of the evergreen Seul Ce Soir also covered by Django Reinhardt, and you’ll know what captivating guitar playing literally means.