Album Reviews and Live Reviews
July 20, 2015
Tokyo Tramps to appear Barnful of Blues Festival August 1
Tokyo Tramps will be making a special New Hampshire appearance this summer. The three piece blues band from Boston is slated to kick off the Barnful Of Blues Festival this year, August 1, 2015. Barnful is hosted by Granite State Blues Society.
Tokyo Tramps are bassist-vocalist Yukiko Fujii, her husband Satoru Nakagawa, and current drummer Tim Carman. Fujii came to Boston from Tokyo, Japan to study music at Berklee College Of Music. Nakagawa, who attended college in Louisiana first, also moved to Boston to study at Berklee. He hails from a rural part of Japan. For several years, Tokyo Tramps also maintained a series of drummers who were also from Japan, keeping their trio unique.
Fujii, who made herself available for a few brief words, said she and her trio mates are looking forward to playing at the Barnful of Blues Festival.
“We are so excited to be a part of Barnful of Blues Festival,” Fujii exclaimed. “We were given a special mission to kick off the festival. We will do it.”
Tokyo Tramps have not played a lot of gigs in New Hampshire, contrasting with their hectic gig schedule in Massachusetts. But, they do have a presence here.
“We played at Village Trestle, Dolphin Strikers, J’s Tavern, Fody’s Tavern, and so on,” Fujii said. Their upcoming Barnful appearance will likely kindle further Granite State interest for the trio due to its visibility.
Summer blues festivals are always a treat for Tokyo Tramps. “We like its relaxed and fun atmosphere,” Fujii said. “We can meet new audience and make new friends.”
Tokyo Tramps have a few special songs ready for the Barnful of Blues Festival. They will likely have a new CD coming out by the end of the year, and they will feature songs from that recording project those at Barnful.
“One of the theme songs of this new album is ‘Winter always turns to Spring.’” It’s originally from a British poem but Japanese people have it as a proverb: even if it’s tough now, good thing will happen, just like beautiful Spring always comes after harsh Winter. Last couple of years was very tough for us, so we wrote this song to keep our hope and faith.” Some might say that is what the blues is all about.
Tokyo Tramps’ upcoming album will be blues based but the trio will stretch the blues out in the directions that were initially inspired and made possible by blues.
“We are working hard on it,” Fujii said. “We will do guitar overdub session soon, then we will think if we need to add something else to it. This CD will not be just blues. Satoru plays a lot of fuzz guitar like Jimi Hendrix while he got traditional slide guitar like Elmore James as well. Our groove is getting funkier, modern funk like Meters, Little Feet, and Dr. John. You will hear a lot of different stuff that we learned from our 15 years of musical journey.”
You can see and hear Tokyo Tramps at The Barnful Of Blues Festival on August 1, 2015 at the New Boston Fairgrounds in New Boston, New Hampshire.
Here is more info:
12:00 Welcome and National Anthem 12:05 The Tokyo Tramps 1:00 Delanie Pickering 1:20 Shor’ty Billups 2:30 Arthur James 3:10 The Mike Crandall Band 4:15 Delanie Pickering 4:40 Michelle “Evil Gal” Wilson 6:00 Sugar Ray and The Bluetones
* 12:00 pm to 7:30 pm – gates open at 11am – general admission
The Barnful of Blues Festival is a family-oriented music event with all profits donated to the Webster House of Manchester, New Hampshire. This all-day, rain or shine event takes place at the Youth Center in New Boston, NH (aka – Fairgrounds on Route 13) and features the best blues and R&B bands New England has to offer!
RAIN OR SHINE! If it’s a nice day, the festival takes place outside. If it’s threatening rain, the festivities are moved inside into the HUGE barn on site.
Bring chairs, blankets, coolers, sunblock, bug spray and dancing feet!!
No glass! No grills! No hibachis!
Sorry…NO PETS ALLOWED!
Tickets are $20 until July 30th
February 17, 2013
Tokyo Tramps outdo themselves on Rollin' Rockland Blues Hour CD
Always one of the finest blues bands around Boston, the Tokyo Tramps have outdone even themselves on their new album Rollin’ Rockland Blue Hour. Named after the town Rockland, Massachusetts that hosts recording studio 37 ft Productions where they recorded it, the CD has a freer, looser, and more sophisticated sound structure than any of their previous efforts. Without losing their punch, the trio presents their blues music with a new finesse in their layering and performance.
Opening track “Good Morning, Marietta” finds guitarist-songwriter Satoru Nakagawa pressing out a breezy melodic phrases that flies as free as a kite in the wind. Nakagawa also grinds out some heavier, meaner phrases too here. His lead vocal is in fine form, sounding like an older, experienced blues man. His vocal exchanges with bassist-wife Yukiko Fujii shimmer with bright warm colors and tones. Her pretty, delicate voice is the perfect foil to Nakagawa’s rougher, huskier belt.
Speaking of Fujii, she also graces the next song “Empty Pockets” with her winsome, likable vocal approach. There is a certain quaintness to her voice as well as how perfectly she uses it. Fujii and drummer Kosei Fukuyama keep an infectious groove going on, making the listener want to move his feet. The song will hit home with most people as it’s about a lack of money after all the bills are paid. Nakagawa cuts loose with another edgy guitar line while saxophonist Junpei Fujita keeps a bluesy horn melody unfurling over all.
“Come On Baby, Dry Your Tears” is a slow dance number in which Nakagawa plays the most tasteful lead guitar lines in Bean town. You can hear honest emotion in his melodic phrases as it meanders at its own sweet pace around the rhythm section. His guitar speaks tenderly to ears and to the heart and offers something more than the usual tender guitar lines over down tempo grooves.
“Me And My Guitar” brings the Tokyo Tramps more into rough road house blues territory. Nakagawa grinds out old time electric guitar blues motifs while the rhythm section keeps him anchored in. The earliest electric blues pioneers can be heard in his work, along with oldies rock and roll and rockabilly. The song is about a guitarist comforting himself through sad times with his music. As songwriter and player, Nakagawa succeeds in creating a comforting and familiar blues sound that makes the song work on multiple levels. When the song gets going, it reaches the catharsis level with a climax of emotion that leads the songwriter and the listener to other side of blues, which is salvation.
Fujii is a cool blues chanteuse on “Bound For Glory.” With the hip confident swagger of a 1960s rock stat, she rides her vocal over the bopping groove and alongside Fujita’s sax melody. Fujii also serves up a steady bass run as a foil to Nakagawa’s personality-infused guitar line. The band eventually goes whole hog, getting into their groove with unflinching, empowered guitar leads thrusting and parrying with driving horn and rhythm section.
The trio slow things down again for “The Ghost Of My Old Love.” This slow boil finds Nakagawa singing a haunting vocal line, like his voice is traveling down a long dark cavern over his blistering lead lines. His electric guitar gets another fine workout during the instrumental portion. He makes it cry, growl, and shout his haunted anguish over a startling memory of a past love. The thick notes he grinds out feel like a personal exorcism. He eventually, after a long spiritual fight to the death, drives the demon out.
“I’m Movin’ On” returns the Tramps to a fun, danceable frame of mind as Nakagawa sings of a need for independence from his family and their small town life. While the theme, groove, and guitar picking are all universal, Nakagawa takes it up a notch beyond most dance ditties, mostly with a fresh enthusiasm in his notes and chords. A saxophone line is pretty cool too.
“Going Back To New Orleans” is Nakagawa’s ode to the first American city he lived in. His rootsie, bluesy picking style is on the mark and the song has an appropriate roadhouse feel. Nakagawa peels off his greasy notes like he’s got all the time in the world and takes care to bend and sustain them nice and sweetly.
The trio get into a funky feeling on “No Time Woman Blues.” Nakagawa’s lead phrase is drenched in Chicago blues stylings, and Fujii proves an effective vocalist, crooning coolly over the juke joint beat and traveling lead guitar line. Her expressions are clear, crisp, and full of emotion. In this song, she sings of needing more time to love her man, and she makes the listener feel it. Her busy schedule keeps her on the go, and the frustration mounts, and that leads to more hilly mounds and lifts in the song structure. Beautiful.
“I’m A Country Boy” finds Nakagawa continuing to play his electric blues guitar at a higher level of effectiveness. Like the whole of this album, he finds that level of art and beauty where his vocal, guitar expressions, and groove work together more smoothly than ever before. One reason why this Tramps album is their best yet is a feeling of freedom. The trio are not trying as hard to be good. Instead of being industrious, which they still are to some extent, they just let the feeling of the music take over and more good things come out of that. Here, Nakagawa showcases his guitar talents like a flying trapeze artist, playing notes way up high, making contact with groove and verses at just the right moments, so it doesn’t all fall apart.
“Papa’s My Number One Fan” provides Fujii with a perfect vehicle to strut her vocal stuff in a rapid, hard-hitting blues format. She nails the urgency of wanting to escape from a strict father to sing in a rock and roll band. Just as frenetic is the pace at which she wants to reconnect with her businessman papa when he changes his tune about her music career. The trio grind out some hard-driving, energetic blues here, making sparks as they hit the ground running with each change. Fujii’s background in other genres left her well prepared to emote around all these volcanic eruptions of blues power.
The trio close out their album with the easeful slide guitar oriented “A Quiet Evening.” Nakagawa likes doing some slide work in his live Tramps shows, and he moves that old time sound around like he invented it. Here, it’s like the slide is waltzing with the groove and the vocal, shards of crisp guitar phrases soft-stepping in gracefully at the perfect moments.
Words alone cannot describe how far the Tokyo Tramps have come on this new album. They trio simply take their blues and Americana roots knowledge and talents to a higher level, resulting in their best CD ever. Drummer Kosei Fukuyama has since left the trio to return to Japan to help his country rebuild after it suffered the worst natural disasters on record. As drummer, he left behind a valuable contribution to the Tramps legacy. His work on this album is as stellar as the other two players and their guest saxophonist. Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour is sure to take Tokyo Tramps to a higher level of recognition.
Boston Blues Society
Album Review : With These Hands
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.
Boston Blues Society
Album Review : Rollin' Rockland Blues Hour
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.