Tokyo Tramps Releases New Album 'Fearless Heart'
Tokyo Tramps is what happens when two musicians relocate from Japan to the American South, in order to create USA-ish rock & roll. Satoru Nakagawa relocated to Louisiana, while Yukiko Fujii found her way to Nashville. Then they met in Boston and formed Tokyo Tramps, a band that sounds nothing if not like a ‘70s AOR band.
The album Fearless Heart features lead vocals that either combine Nakagawa and Fujii’s singing, or trade off back and forth, all sung over crunchy electric guitar rock. To track this latest album, Tokyo Tramps called upon an Americana veteran, Jim Weider (who has worked with The Band) to bring out the duo’s best American music. He plays slide and acoustic guitar, as well as acts as this album’s producer. The group is filled out by Josh Dion on drums, as Nakagawa plays guitar while Fujii
The act has been described as a blues band by some, and while one of these ten tracks is titled “Blues Leave Me Alone,” this is not an all a traditional (or modern, for that matter) collection of blues music.
Naturally, blues sounds have inspired some of the sounds heard within these tracks – it’s impossible for rock & roll musicians today, playing a style that evolved out of the blues, to avoid the style completely.
However, much of this music comes off as the sound of musicians enjoying cranking up the rock & roll tunes.
With that said, though, one titled “Can’t Find My Way Home” comes pretty darn close to a classic blues song. It features Nakagawa and Fujii singing it together, with Nakagawa holding down the melody, while Fujii harmonizes throughout. As with many of the songs from this rewarding album, this one sounds like a few songs you may have heard before, yet it is completely original. Well, maybe it’s not entirely original. It does, after all, borrow heavily from soul singer Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.”
The album’s best song title is “Loneliness Is A Social Disease.” It reads a little bit like a sociological study yet plays out like a heartbroken tale. It’s built upon a driving, electric guitar groove.
Sonically, Tokyo Tramps don’t do anything particularly inventive. These players don’t have to be innovative. Instead, they pull from time-tested musical values, and just let the tape roll. There’s an innocent spontaneity about these recordings that’s refreshing. Nothing on Fearless Heart sounds overly labored over. Rather, these songs allow the rock grooves to do all the heavy lifting.
One titled “I Don’t See My Star Tonight” even has a bit of country/Americana running through it. Perhaps it was inspired by Fujii’s time spent in Nashville. It’s slow, relatively quiet and thoughtful.
Nakagawa and Fujii sing it sadly and prettily. Then with “Young Lion,” Tokyo Tramps close out the album on a slightly funky, somewhat acoustic note.
Tokyo Tramps is a pair that has completely acclimated themselves to some of the best of American musical culture. They’re a couple of rock & rollers that love every minute of recording together. One would hope more Americans would also rediscover their roots. But if it takes two immigrated Japanese musicians, we’ll welcome them to the States with open arms. Keep on rocking!