Tokyo Tramps

Tokyo Tramps
Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour

2012 Vagabond Entertainment - TT41635

By Georgetown Fats
February 2013

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Though this review will probably be released after the International Blues Challenge and the Tokyo Tramps have recently undergone a line-up change, I expect Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour and Satoru Nakagawa’s entry into the solo/duo competition of the IBC to herald a very big year for the Tokyo Tramps.

It may sound incredibly crass, or show my complete naiveté when it comes to making money in the music industry, but ultimately I don’t care. The Tokyo Tramps have been an enigma from the first moment I heard them and remain an enigma as I attempt to review their sixth release, Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour. In a contemporary blues market where originality is given a back seat to non-threatening packaging, I have absolutely no idea why a major blues indy label which used to be the toast of Chicago, or any other label hasn’t scooped up the Tokyo Tramps, offered up some capital support and then just laughed their way to the bank.

Whether it be their blues power trio line-up, or their new blues quartet line-up, I have yet to hear a band like the Tokyo Tramps play such a radio-friendly blues rock sound without diluting their sound with a complete lack of originality. While many others either get caught up with copying their musical heroes or not having strong enough musical chops to add their own original inflection on the standard chord progressions, Satoru, Yukiko and the Tokyo Tramps lay down an irresistible Chicago Blues Rock sound while also paying homage to their Japanese roots by mixing American blues idioms with their Japanese heritage.

Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour opens with “Good Morning Marietta,” which also appears on Satoru’s solo EP Me and My Guitar. On the version recorded for Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour, drummer Kosei Fukuyama kicks off the song with a New Orleans Second Line drum groove before both Yukiko Fujii and Satoru lay down their bass and guitar lines. The irresistible groove and pocket created by the trio set the listener up for the remaining 11 tracks. For those who have had the chance to experience the Tokyo Tramps live, “Me and My Guitar” (which is also the title and a track available on Satoru’s EP), is one of those signature tracks that they can truly appreciate. From the opening riff, it is easy to envision Satoru wailing on his Telecaster while stomping on a pool table a la most of their appearances at Geezers Garage Nite at the Granite Rail in Quincy or any of their other live appearances, while Yukiko and Kosei lock down an extended groove. The energy conveyed on “Me and My Guitar” sounds devoid of drop-ins or overdubs and is all that was needed for this track. Proving every bit the vocalist, song writer, and rocker, Yukiko handles the vocal duties on “Papa’s My Number One Fan.” The lyrics on this tune are obviously biographical; a touching tale of a father’s unconditional love belted out over a raucous track. The highly original track makes for repeated spins. If my earlier prognostication does not prove true, it won’t be for the lack of talent or effort on behalf of Tokyo Tramps. With an active gigging and recording schedule, the Tokyo Tramps prove they are more than willing to do what it takes to entertain the masses. Here is to hoping the right people at the IBC get wind of that Tokyo Tramps sound.

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