If I Die Tomorrow
Tokyo Tramps fit into a familiar origin story: young musicians come to America to get closer to the music, meet and form a band. What is unusual is that these two musicians came from Japan.
Satoru Nakagawa had just graduated high school when he came to the States in 1990. Yukiko Fujii was doing well as a musician in Japan but also wanted to play in America. The two formed Tokyo Tramps in Boston in 1999. Nakagawa is a brilliant guitarist and Fujii is equally skilled on bass, while both are powerful vocalists who sing very well together as well as separately.
While they came to America to get close to the blues, much of the music sounds more like the British blues-infused music of Clapton and particularly Cream. One can also hear the influence of Springsteen (from whose “Born To Run” they got the “Tramps” part of their name,)and others.
The first song, “Flowing Water,” immediately illustrates this point. Even Nakagawa’s voice sounds similar to Clapton here. It is a spectacular song, with Fujii joining Nakagawa at perfect moments and a searing guitar solo that lets you know you are in for a treat there. The.songwriting is of an extremely high caliber as well. In fact, the musicianship and writing are superb throughout t the album.
You can hear the Hendrix influence on “If I Die Tomorrow,” both in the echo-laden vocal and the songwriting style. It’s a fun trip back to those psychedelic days, complete with a great jam. The next song, “Why,” allows Fujii to unleash her incredible voice, beginning with a raucous shout and rocking out on a fabulous story centered around the senseless death of a bird. For me, she is the real powerhouse of this duo, a real rock goddess.
The following song, “Woman,” is a lovely, sweet song that harks back to solo Clapton in style, while ‘Bluebird” returns us to full-throttle blues-rock.
The instrumental “Misty Forest” gets off to a slow start but does allow both musicians to show off their impressive skills. Then “Betty’s Kitchen” offers a delightful modern talking blues After a dramatic entrance, “Talking To Someone” channels The Doors very effectively.
“Mystery Man” lets us hear the magnificent voice of Fujii again, this time with an obvious Blondie influence. “Reprobates, Saints and Sinners” is good-time rockabilly, a party song for sure.
Then “Lovin’ Man: is a delightful surprise, a sweet folk blues with a great singable refrain, and “Winter Always Turns To Spring” continues in the same vein, with scintillating slide guitar. “Blues in My Blood: nails the ending with a delightful blues shuffle.
For this album at least, the roots of the music only seem to go to around the 60s and 70s, but that was a rich time for blues-rock, and Tokyo Tramps mine it to create some great songs. If blues-rock is your thing, this will make you very happy! It is an excellent album from start to finish!