Blues News 2/2018 / Pete Hoppula


SaraLee has published their second album only a year after their debut Queen of Your Heart but while listening to it, one can't but determine the time as more than enough. SaraLee is the only Finnish artist within the large German-English roots label, Rhythm Bomb Records. According to their press releases, Heart of Stone has sold nicely around Europe and has already gotten really good exposure through radio. It is a solid follow-up that brings out new sides from its makers as well as the strengths of the first album. But, first and foremost it presents a dozen of well-made middle of the road rhythm ’n' blues and rockabilly songs. All the lyrics are by singer-saxophonist Saara Lehtomäki and the songs are composed by her and her talented guitarist friends Markus Tiiro and Eero Vaajoensuu.


What is better than on the first album is especially the songs tiptoeing in a more serene swing-jazz vocalist style, like the flirtatious opening song 1-2-3 He's Mine, the title track with its Angelo Badalamenti style soundtrack finish and the soulful end waltz Black Roses. The lap steel by Jussi Huhtakangas brings western mournful vibes to the slow Wasting Time and Let Me Love You bows beautifully to the 50's r&b-pop ballads with its longing for love.


Instead of aggresive yelling, like most her colleagues in r&b and blues, Lehtomäki has the guts to use her most aggressive sounds sparingly, and thus stands out positively from her contemporary competitors. The vocalist keeps the twinkle in her eye, even during the album's more powerful tracks like I'm A Lover with its  Bo Diddley rhythms and the more stricktly old school shuffle-r&b track Hey Bartender. She does not hide her youthful glow that comes across so strikingly in her delivery.


SaraLee can contentedly continue with the retro style in the future as well. However, she has no need to follow the clichés of the genre since her touch produces such personal and timeless results.

Keys and Chords / Lambert Smits

"Sara Lee not only has a beautiful voice, she also plays a nice piece of tenor sax. In addition, she is also a good songwriter. That is what she shows on this album, which contains rhythm & blues, blues, rockabilly and jazz. She is without a doubt ready for a major breakthrough!"

In 2016 presenteerde zangeres en tenorsaxofoniste Saara ‘Sara Lee’ Lehtomäki met ‘Queen Of Your Heart’ haar debuutalbum, waarvoor ze erg goede reviews kreeg, onder meer van het gerenommeerde blad Vintage Rock. ‘Heart Of Stone’ is dus het vervolg hierop en ook nu schreef ze op één song na, namelijk ‘Let Me Love You’, alle nummers samen met haar gitarist Markus Tiiro. Met explosieve rhythm & blues, gemixt met rockabilly en soul, slaat Lee je vanaf opener ‘1-2-3 He’s Mine’
je keihard in je gezicht. Een zwoele sax en Sara’s imponerende stem geven het nummer een ietwat soulvolle jazzy feel. Meteen valt Sara’s prachtige stem op en laat ze tevens horen dat ze ook erg goed met de sax overweg kan. Twee hoogstaande kwaliteiten, die al vlug aangevuld worden met nog een derde, namelijk het songschrijven, waarbij ze diversiteit niet schuwt. ‘I’m A Lover’ heeft een Diddleybeat als basis, waarop ook de op staande bas bedreven Jari Lehtomäki, hier op mondharmonica aardig uit de hoek komt. Op ‘Trouble Knows I’m Coming In’ wringt ze zich met klasse in een rockabillysong, waarna ze met ‘Wasting Time’ de slow jazzy soul opzoekt. ‘Hey Bartender’ is dan weer een tof licht rockende song, waar Sara als het ware de longen uit haar lijf blaast en voor een pracht van een intieme slowblues kan je terecht bij ‘Let Me Love You’, opgesmukt met een knappe gitaarsolo van Markus Tiiro. Sara Lee is van alle muzikale markten thuis. Zo laat ze de old school swing herleven in ‘I Can’t Tell I Love You’ en ‘Third Man Down’ dompelt ze met hulp van Jussi Huhtakangas op lapsteel in een countrysfeertje. Gevoelig sluit Lee af met het jazzy ‘Black Roses’.
Sara Lee heeft met ‘Heart Of Stone’ een album afgeleverd dat laat horen dat ze zonder meer klaar is voor de grote doorbraak.

Lambert Smits (4 ½)

SoultrainOnline / Stephan Carl Blades

SaraLee – Heart Of Stone (Rhythm Bomb Records/Broken Silence)

Das stilvolle, traditionsbewusste Cover-Artwork kündigt es an: Die Musik von „Heart Of Stone“, dem neuen Album der SaraLee und ihrer Band, ist eleganteste Rhythm and Blues-Feinkost mit dem gleichzeitigen Mut zur eigenen Klangfarbe.

Mit kontrollierter Inbrunst in der Stimme singt Saara „SaraLee“ Lehtomäki (auch für das Songwriting und das Tenorsaxofon verantwortlich) ihren Genremix aus jenem Rhythm and Blues, aber auch aus Rock’n’Roll, Rockabilly, Blues und den Swing-Idealen der ersten Hälfte und der Mitte des letzten Jahrhunderts passgenau auf die luftig-leichte Band-Bewegung ihrer Mitstreiter Markus Tiiro (Gitarre), Jani Ahtiainen (Schlagzeug und Perkussion) sowie Jari Lehtomäki (Doppel-Bass und Mundharmonika).

Das Dutzend Songs (CD) des vorzüglich ausbalancierten „Heart Of Stone“-Sets behält sich eine Kurzweil vor, die jeden Black Music-Entertainment-Rahmen sprengt und von Anfang bis Ende abwechslungsreich, lebendig und emotional, retrospektiv und zeitgenössisch – eben nachvollziehbar – hält – coole Sache.

Die finnische Band um Namensgeberin SaraLee überzeugt auf ihrem neuen Longplayer „Heart Of Stone“ mit großartiger Verspieltheit und eben genug Facettenreichtum in ihrer mitunter auch unterkühlten Intonation, traditionelle Pfade des Black Music-Kosmos nicht allzu weit zu verlassen.

Auch die Hintergründigkeit uramerikanischer Roots- und Country & Western-Elemente geben dem wunderbarm, abendfüllenden „Heart Of Stone“ von SaraLee ein Fundament, welches unterhält, mitreißt und fasziniert um das Set gerade auch optisch zu einem großen Beleg dafür werden zu lassen, dass authentische Rock’n’Roll-Verzückung auch aus dem aktuellen Kalender 2018 kommen kann.

Read more:

Slap that Bass Rockabilly, R&B, Psychobilly, Rock n Roll Album Reviews

Reviewed 3rd February 2018

“Heart of Stone” is the second album form Helsinki’s Rhythm n Blues song bird SaraLee who’s first album “Queen of your heart” was outstanding, so what’s the new album like I hear you ask?

Well its dam good and is going to be one of the best Rhythm n Blues albums of 2018 in my opinion. With 12 original tracks Saralee shows she has grown as an artist oh so well. Vocally superb the album takes the listener through several emotions. Saara SaraLee Lehtomäki is backed by her band Markus Tiiro on Guitar, Jari Lehtomäki on Double Bass and Jani Ahtiainen on Drums.

This exceptional album start with a great track “1 2 3 He’s Mine” great rhythm n blues track with outstanding vocal and great sax work. “I’m a Lover” is a quicker paced track which reminds me of Imelda may at her best. “Trouble knows I’m coming in” takes you back to the age of swing with an awesome track to jive to, this for me is SaraLee at her best! “Wasting Time” slows the pace right down with a sensual track that gave me goose bumps. “Runaway Bride” is a great rhythm n blues number with a mid-tempo beat, next up is title track “Heart of stone” and I was surprised as it’s another slow track with lots of sensual moody vocals. “Black Widow” is a great track again in the Imelda May style, great track, great vocals. “Hey Bartender” is a fast paced track and is another great dance track. “Let me Love You” slows the pace down once again with a rock n roll love ballad, vocals make you melt away. “I can’t tell you I love you” is an up tempo track again one that will fill dance floors with couples jiving, SaraLee at her best. “Third man down” has a bit of a western swing feel to it, great track and different to others on the album. Final track is yet another love song ”Black Roses” great way to sign off.

Another great release on the Rhythm Bomb Label, and one all you Rhythm n Blues fans will want.

Is SaraLee the new Imelda may? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Bear Family Records

(2016/Rhythm Bomb) 13 tracks - Fantastic album - just came out on the Rhythm Bomb label! All songs are written by the band. A great mixture of Rhythm 'n' Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, Swing, even alternative Rock elements and Roots music! This album is definitely a must have for those of you who enjoy artists like 'The Hillbilly Moon Explosion', the french female roots music singer 'Zaz', 'The Beat From Palookaville' and for those who just are open to some 'newer' sounds! This is and I really mean that in a positive way no authentic stuff album - this is really an own style album which definitely is it worth to listen to it!  If I could give 10 stars it would get 10! A highly recommended A+ release!


SaraLee - The Queen Of Your Heart - True Words!

Read more at:
Copyright © Bear Family Records

Vintage Rock Magazine 26/2016

Tattooed Finnish Chanteuse SaraLee looks compelling on the cover of her latest 12-track album, which comprises 100 per cent rocking originals - despite the familiarity of many of the songs titles, Oh Oh, Voodoo Voodoo and Down The Line may not be quite the songs you were expecting to hear, but that doesn't detract from an obviously versatile singer who can roar with the best of them yet can dial it down to a torchy whisper when the song demands it. She's already a star in Scandinavia and we might expect to see SaraLee on the UK festival circuit soon.

Helsingin Sanomat ***

Singer-saxophonist Saara Lehtomäki's debut album is based on 1940-1950s black American music. Stylistic richness makes this album refreshing: there is rhythm 'n' blues, rock & roll and light danceable jazz. Fast paced dance numbers and mood setting songs for late nights are beautifully balanced. All the songs in the album are made by Saara Lehtomäki and Markus Tiiro. Lehtomäki's excellent interpretation and and Tiiro’s softly swinging guitar playing are holding listener throughout the record. Queen of your Heart is First Finnish record that has been released by reputable rock ‘n’ roll record label Rhythm Bomb Records.

Mikko Aaltonen / 28.9.2016


Laulaja ja saksofonisti Saara Lehtomäken esikoissooloalbumin musiikillinen sokkeli on valettu pääosin 1940-50 -luvun amerikkalaisen mustan musiikin varaan. Tyylillinen runsaus tekee debyytistä tavallista piristävämmän: löytyy niin rhythm 'n' bluesia, rock & rollia kuin kevyttä tanssijazzikin. Nopeatempoiset tanssinumerot ja hitaat pikkutuntien sievistelyt ovat nätisti tasapainossa. Albumin kaikki kappaleet ovat Lehtomäen ja kitaristi Markus Tiiron käsialaa. Lehtomäen erinomainen tulkinta ja Tiiron pehmeästi svengaava kitaratyöskentely kannattelevat kuulijan läpi levyn.  Queen of Your Heart on ensimmäinen suomalainen levy, joka on julkaistu vanhakantaisen rock & roll -genren arvostetuimpiin kuuluvalla Rhythm Bomb- merkillä.

Mikko Aaltonen / 28.9.2016



Such a nice release! SaraLee (Saara Lehtomäki) and her band serve an album full of traditional-aware rhythm and blues with voodoo rhythms. Songs in the “Queen of Your Heart“ album create a personal and diverse entity. That is the strength of this record: at no point listener gets a feeling that same composition is played again and again.

The band works also well. Rhythm section Kimmo Salminen (drums) and Jari Lehtomäki (double bass) plays with good swing throughout the record. Guitarist Markus Tiiro is technically skillful guitarist who plays with good taste and with really handsome sound regardless whether the song is rhythm ‘n’ blues or swing. SaraLee sings well and expressively. Also backing vocals, to which the whole band contributes, are working.

Queen of Your Heart works well also what comes to recording and mixing. Juha Takanen is responsible for that. General sound of the record respects the style of this musical genre however it doesn’t sound artificially old.




SAARA LEHTOMÄKI aka SARALEE ist seit frühester Jugend mit Roots-Styles wie Blues, Rockabilly, Country und Rhythm'n'Blues aufgewachsen und fand ihre gesanglichen Idole in Größen wie RUTH BROWN, BILLIE HOLIDAY oder ELLA FITZGERALD, während sie am Saxophon KING CURTIS, LEE ALLEN, LESTER YOUNG oder STANLEY TURRENTINE nacheiferte. 

Zusammen mit ihrer Band sowie ihrer souligen und dezent lasziven Stimme bespielte sie bereits europaweit Bühnen und eröffnete für Kollegen wie MATCHBOX, THE POLECATS oder CRAZY CAVAN. Als erstes finnisches Signing auf RHYTHM BOMB präsentiert die charmante Vokalistin zwölf Eigenkompositionen, die um ihren ausdrucksstarken Gesang herum einen bewusst stilübergreifenden Songwriting-Ansatz zeigen. So finden sich Elemente aus Rock'n'Roll, Rockabilly, R'n'B, Country und Blues genau so wie Swing-Appeal, und Western-Tragik. 

Bewusst offen zeitgemäß und keiner speziellen Dekade der US-Musikgeschichte verpflichtet, hat SARA LEE mit diesem selbstbewussten und eigenständigen Debüt beste Chancen, zur »Queen Of Your Heart« zu werden! Wunderschön gestaltetes Artwork von GITO LIMA (RUBY ANN, BIG SANDY, JAI MALANO, CORAL LEE)



Short translation of the end:  jazzy R&B-ballads as "Stay by my side" and "down the line", rock song "tongue is tied", rockabilly songs "ain't that kinda girl" and "don't bring me down" or the swinging album title track "Queen of your heart" SaraLee proves that she herself also has a firm voice. One cannot say much more about this debut of the Finnish SaraLee. We suggest that you just listen to her work and judge for yourself. Enjoy! 

Valsam 11.6.2016

Read the complete review in Dutch:

Please reload