Tokyo Tramps

Tokyo Tramps
With These Hands

Vagabond Entertainment

By Georgetown Fats
December 2009

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Being blown away by a band previously unknown to me is one of those magical moments that fuels my passion for live music; one that all music fans surely understand.

I had heard great things from reliable sources about the Tokyo Tramps, but it was not until the first round of the 2009 Boston Blues Challenge that I had a chance to witness why so many spoke so highly of them. I walked into Johnny D’s having only second-hand knowledge and walked out a fan of both their music and their back-story.

The Tokyo Tramps are three people willing to follow their dreams, all having independently moved from Japan to The United States to pursue their love of music. Somehow, perhaps by fate, they all met in Boston and formed a dynamic three-piece blues rock band that blends early Chicago Blues with pop harmonies, irresistible hooks and Far Eastern idioms.

In the opening bars of “Holler & Shout” drummer Kosei Fukuyama doubles Satoru Nakagawa’s melodic humming with well-placed marimba work and handclaps, forming a minimalist arrangement that induces goose bumps. By the time Yukiko Fujii’s bass, Satoru’s guitar and Kosei’s full drum kit enter the mix, the trio immediately locks into a big fat groove.

On “Nothing But The Blues” Yukiko takes a turn with the lead vocals, singing about a coming-of-age moment in her life while trying to write her masterpiece. Satoru’s lead guitar work alternates between some work with a slide and single note leading.

“Rollin’ & Tumblin”, the traditional blues song often attributed to Muddy Waters, is usually a cover song with cringe-inducing characteristics. With songs that have been recorded hundreds of times there usually is not much life left in the track, but no worries here. The combination of Satoru’s slide and Kosei’s almost disco-sounding drumming breathe new life into a very dead traditional.

There are too many gems on this disk to boil it down to one great track, but I can say my personal favorite has to be “I’ll Give You All of My Best”. The pulsating slide guitar line is irresistible. Yukiko and Satoru share lead vocals on this track, singing about their passion for music, and while everything else in the world is changing they remain passionate about performing. It is an illustration that proves a musician does not have to trace his lineage back to Mississippi in order to be considered a blues musician.

With the current trends in music favoring reproduction and imitation, it is refreshing to hear the Tokyo Tramps retain all of their ethnicity within their vocals. With a local blues music scene littered with accomplished musicians, it provides just a little something extra to help differentiate them.

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