Takashi Nakagawa: Kaidosuji No Chakuchi Shinai Blues

Takashi Nakagawa has just released a new solo album Kaidosuji No Chakuchi Shinai Blues (At The Roadside, No Touchdown Blues). Nakagawa is best known as the leader of Kansai roots-rock band Soul Flower Union whose prolific output is sometimes hard to keep pace with. Despite this over-eagerness to continually release new CDs, Nakagawa’s band has been one of the most consistently inventive and exciting in Japan, always putting music before fashion and frequently adding all kinds of influences from outside the usual Western rock obsession. Their adventures have also included occasional forays into the music of Okinawa.

Nakagawa’s previous solo album Lost Homeland was made back in 1998 and remains one of the best ever releases from the Soul Flower camp. Recorded in England and Tokyo, it featured many guests and was co-produced by famed Irish musician Donal Lunny. With this new album he has taken a completely different direction and it really is a solo effort in the true sense. Kaidosuji No Chakuchi Shinai Blues has a stripped down sound with Nakagawa accompanying his vocals on acoustic guitar, while he also plays sanshin, bouzouki, acoustic bass and percussion. The only other contribution comes from Hideko Itami (hayashi on one song) and Miyuki (background vocals on one song).

The 14 tracks include two instrumentals while the songs are a mixture of those previously recorded by Soul Flower Union and some new songs, mainly by Nakagawa. There’s a nice version of ‘Higurashi’ (Cicada) which he co-wrote with Hideko Itami, and a new version of the traditional Irish song ‘The Pretty Young Girl’ with Japanese lyrics by Nakagawa and now retitled ‘Furai Renka’. Yet another recording of the excellent but overly familiar ‘Mangetsu no Yube’ (A Full Moon Evening) was hardly necessary but there’s also a fine new version of the song ‘Hikari’ (Light).

This is a mixed bag which doesn’t aim as high as Lost Homeland, but has lots of good moments of its own with a focus on the more melodic side of Nakagawa’s songs. For those used to the big production jobs found on most Soul Flower Union albums it may come as both a surprise and a very welcome diversion. It gives us the chance to hear some good songs performed in a straightforward, simple way and to discover another side of Takashi Nakagawa. The album was recorded in Osaka and is released on Soul Flower’s own label.

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