Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Album Review: Tokyo Tramps – Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the July 4, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Tokyo Tramps – Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour

Self release through Vagabond Entertainment

12 tracks / 52:23

During my travels to Japan I have had the opportunity to hear quite a few Japanese blues and jazz groups over the years, and one thing is consistently true: they are among the most technically proficient musicians I have ever run across. The professionalism and work ethic of these bands is amazing, and it humbles me each time I see them perform in a festival or some obscure off-street club.

Well, you do not have to strap yourself into an airplane seat for twelve hours to experience this phenomenon for yourself, as the Tokyo Tramps have made Boston their home base. Their latest release, Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour, is a real peach and I really enjoyed getting to know this piece of work.

All of the members of the Tokyo Tramps are from Japan, and until recently they performed as a trio with Satoru Nakagawa on guitars, vocals and accordion, his wife Yukiko Fujii on bass and vocals, and Kosei Fukuyama on drums, vocals and percussion. They all came to the United States with different musical dreams, and in 1998 they met up in Boston where their energy and abilities clicked and turned into something special. With the addition of saxophonist Junpei Fujita, they are now a quartet, and they play about 100 shows per year around the Tri-state and New England area.

Their sixth album, Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour, is named after Rockland, Massachusetts, where the project was recorded. All twelve tracks are originals that were penned by Nakagawa, and each is very well-written. This release kicks off with “Good Morning Marietta,” which is a hammering good time with a Louisiana-style drum beat. The vocals are a treat, with Nakagawa’s throaty roar contrasting with Fujii’s sweeter voice. The bass and drums are perfectly in sync and Nakagawa lays down one heck of a good guitar solo.

Fujii takes over the lead vocals on “Empty Pockets,” and I guess this is a good time to point out that though the Tokyo Tramps are from Japan, all of these songs are in English. There is a slight accent to be heard, but I find this characteristic makes the music more interesting and helps it stand apart from what other groups are recording today. Anyway, this song is also the first appearance of Fujita’s horns, and overall this song has more of a sparse feel which allows the listener to hear the traditional blues lyrical themes of lost love and not enough money to go around.

“The Ghost of Old Love” is a slow blues rocker with Nakagawa howling the lyrics with true feeling. Under this, Fujii and Fukuyama set up a tight groove to act as a foundation for the impressive melodic guitar solo work. I had to listen to this song over and over to get all of the nuances, which gave me an appreciation for all of the work that went into cutting this track.

The style and tone of the southern rocker “I’m Moving On” pays homage to the time that Nakagawa spent in Louisiana when he first moved to the states. It goes without saying that you will hear these influences in the lyrics of “Going Back to New Orleans” as well. If you are a musician and have the luxury of picking an American hometown, the Big Easy would be a great choice.

My favorite track on the album is “Papa’s My Number One Fan,” a fast-moving rock and roll song which contrasts nicely with the sweet message of Fujii’s lyrics. I hope this is autobiographical because it is a heartwarming story! Nakagawa and Fukuyama go all out on this one, giving it a super groovy beat.

“A Quiet Evening” is the final track on the CD and is a nice laid-back way to bring the album to a close. Nakagawa’s voice and distorted slide guitar are the stars on this song, which has a mellow background of brushes and a spare bass line. This mood and sad lyrics are exactly what the blues should sound like, and defines what this album is all about.

Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour is an exceptionally good album, and with the Tokyo Tramps’ writing and performance skills it is only a matter of time until they get signed. Their music is good enough that I have integrated a few of these tracks into my party mix, which is an exclusive club. If you check out one of their performances or listen to their latest CD you will see what I mean!


1 comment:

  1. Hey Rex, fellow music fanatic here seeking your advice! If you could reach out to me at I would be extremely grateful. I'm wondering if you still have you Jazz Bass Specials?