Tokyo Tramps – Fearless Heart | Album Review

Tokyo Tramps – Fearless Heart

Vagabond Entertainment – 2023

https://www.tokyotramps.com/

10 tracks; 38 minutes 24 seconds. 

With their 7th LP release, Fearless Heart, the Tokyo Tramps deliver an album as steeped in punk and rock as it is in the blues. The group describe themselves as American roots fanatics from Japan, forming as a blues group in Boston, in 1999, releasing their first album Long Way Home just a year later.

Tokyo Tramps is the project of Satoru Nakagawa (guitar and vocals) and Yukiko Fujii (bass and vocals), with players stepping in over the years. Josh Dion appears on drums and percussion, and along with impressive slide guitar, Jim Weider delivers a smoothly produced recording.

Fujii’s vocals evoke a Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde on “Where Did You Hide Your Love?”, a good rocking tune with a kick ass drum sequence halfway through. Only a tinge of blues comes through, and the group resembles the more pop oriented releases of Fleetwood Mac as Fujii cries out “Where did you hide your love? I didn’t get enough.”

Unconventional percussion starts off “Blues Leave Me Alone”, one of the strongest on the album. Nakagawa delivers strong, fluid, and deep vocals, simultaneously letting gnarly blues guitar leak out. The guitar goes off on a path of its own, forging a path wicked and unrelenting. The catchy and danceable song sings of rejection, denial, and poverty. Nakagawa belts “I drive around to pass time in my car/ With a broken heart and my guitar… the blues won’t leave me alone.”

Flashy guitar opens “Heart of Life”, a song exploring the essence and meaning of life. Fujii’s vocals come across with strength, compassion, moxy, and gumption. Ultimately, the song is about being lost, not knowing where to go. The chorus is deadly catchy and while the guitar tries to do too much at times, the storytelling and feeling in Fujii’s voice compensate.

Uptempo drums and groovy guitar chords create a rocking atmosphere on the second track, “The Mississippi and New Orleans”. Nakagawa and Fujii are completely in sync, exchanging violent, charged lyrics, in good punk-rock fashion, singing about “Saints and sinners all gather at the river.” The tune is infused with energy, a song of good times, of reveling in the wild and the untamable human spirit. If I had to gander, I would say the Sex Pistols would approve.

Nakagawa wrote 8 of the 10 songs on the album individually and collaborated with Fujii on writing “Where Did You Hide Your Love?” and “Heart of Life?”. The lead guitarist shows clear lyrical abilities, proving to be a true troubadour.

Occasionally, the band slips into an inauthentic sound, pushing a guitar solo too far. Nakagawa’s voice is variable, and doesn’t always hit. All that said, the Tokyo Tramps provide a fascinating and exciting take on American blues and roots, heavily drenched in punk rock. The band’s passion for American music and the blues pours through.

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