Tokyo Tramps have come a long way in their 20 year journey into American blues music. They’ve incorporated many Americana roots elements into their sound, and they’re looking to take things to a higher level. They have an artist representative who attends their shows, and a label in their home country of Japan is considering their latest recording for release.
Last Saturday, Tokyo Tramps gave a sample of their musical wares at Greedy Geezer’s Annual Garage Night Cookout and BBQ. The annual event is the outdoor summer day and evening version the Greedy Geezer’s Garage Night at the Granite Rail Tavern. While Greedy Geezer continues to look for a new location for his Friday night showcase, he continues this summer tradition in style. The trio began “Motherless Children” with Satoru Nakagawa tossing off brisk riffs and his wife/bassist Yukiko Fujii releasing a stream of bulbous bass notes. Nakagawa soon turned it into a free wheeling guitar phrase, one laced with a touch of Americana roots in the aftertaste. Nakagawa’s smooth vocal cruised through the verse and chorus with an easeful flow.
Fujii sang lead vocals on “No Time Woman Blues” and her charming, winsome delivery made her a natural for this tune. Nakagawa’s jumpy guitar phrase was full of crunch within its twitchy motions. The couple soon used their guitar and bass notes to punctuate a drum solo by the third member of their trio, Takaki Nakamura who grew up in Malaysia but is also a Berklee College of Music student from Japan..
Fujii and Nakagawa captured the oldies magic of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’” with their perfect blend of voices during the favored chorus. By this point, Tokyo Tramps had their audience very focused on their rangy talents and their myriads of motions within each number. One could feel all of the moving parts.
Flinty guitar notes and biting chords made their tune “The Crow’s Song” catchy, dark, and alluring. The darkness was hinted at in Nakagawa’s voice. It complimented well the eerie tone of his guitar and the song’s incisive aggression. He sent out brisk waves of notes at the close out that made one feel the menace even more.
Fujii crooned “Black Velvet” with a sultry vocal and a sassy stage presence. Nakagawa nailed the fiery lead guitar phrase, playing his fiercest phrase of the day, letting the passion of the song out through the amplifiers. As a crowd pleaser, Tokyo Tramps played “When The Saints Go Marching In.” A fun, riffing take one the melodic line went over well. Nakagawa’s consistent chord work resulted in a pull, something that kept ears focused on what he was doing. Keyboardist Joey Fingers joined in on accordion, laying a nice New Orleans flavor all of the musical efforts the trio already had going on.
Fujii showed more of her warm vocal charm on “Blue Bayou,” which was accompanied by a washboard. Then, snappy, aggressive guitar phrasing lead right into Nakagawa’s country flavored slide guitar work on “Just Got Paid Today.” Next tune, “Why” featured a lot of snap, crackle, and pop in the interplay between rhythm section and guitar, between guitar and bass.. The trio simply makes one feel their music is taking you somewhere. Nakagawa slapped out some chords on the easeful but
catchy “Flowing Water” to end their set with pleasant, gliding melody.
It was time for this reviewer to move onto other things for the day, but the Tokyo Tramps certainly played a strong opening set for this annual Greedy Geezer cookout. Tokyo Tramps is a bluesy roots band worthy of any fans attention and the annual cookout has become a staple of the area’s blues and roots scenes. Many in attendance gave up a chance to attend other music festivals taking place the same day to enjoy this backyard barbeque.